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Ontario Ombudsman – Health Oversight

My background in the healthcare sector includes 30 plus years of experience working in a number of public hospitals and mental health facilities in the province of Ontario in Patient Relations, Patient Safety, Privacy and Risk Management roles.

At the outset, I would like to commend the Liberal government for acknowledging the need for an Ombudsman to address health sector complaints.

Ontario is the only province that does not have Ombudsman oversight of health sector complaints.

Based on my experience, I believe that an Ombudsman must be a neutral objective resource from which patients and family can turn to when they have not been able to achieve resolution of their concerns within the health sector. I also believe that there must be a trusting relationship for the process to be successful in achieving resolution.

While I strongly believe that the most effective place for resolution is at the point of care, when patient relations staff within a health sector facility are employed by the organization, it can be challenging for staff to remain neutral.

I recognize that a large number of complaints can and are resolved within the health sector by patient relations processes within the organizations, however, as seen frequently in the media, there are cases that require independence from the health sector and its staff in order for the decisions and outcomes of investigations to be received as fair and credible.

From my experience working within the health sector system and more recently as a private patient advocate/navigator with iCare Home Health Services, I do not believe that a Patient Ombudsman that would exist as currently proposed under Schedule 5 of Bill 8 will achieve what patients and family are looking for with regard to a neutral independent third party to listen to their complaints after they have exhausted the internal processes within a health sector facility.

The Patient Ombudsman as proposed in Schedule 5 of Bill 8 will be a position appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council employed by Health Quality Ontario, an independent crown agency funded by the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. I ask the question if you as a patient or a family member were experiencing a concern related to care or treatment, would you be comfortable after exhausting the internal process within the health sector facility, bringing it forward to an Ombudsman to whom the facility had accountability? Does that fit the criteria of being neutral and independent?

In my opinion, Ontario’s Ombudsman is already a trusted third party that could immediately offer patients and family the independent third party investigation they are seeking when they have been unable to achieve resolution within the health sector system.

Time and time again, in my past positions and in my current Navigator/Patient Advocacy role at iCare Home Health, I hear patients express concern about speaking up with concerns about health sector care and treatment for fear their care, treatment and services will be affected. While we all know this could never happen,

this is a genuine fear of patients and family. Would this same fear not exist with a health Ombudsman with direct link to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care?

I would urge the Committee to examine carefully the lack of trust that could exist with a Patient Ombudsman as proposed in Section 5 of Bill 8. Trust is fragile and hard to restore once lost. Trust is also a core pillar of quality care.

These are critical issues that must be addressed by this Committee before the Bill is referred back to the House. Section 5 of Bill 8 will have an enormous impact on the health care sector and I believe it is vitally important to get it right so that the ombudsman process is seen as neutral and objective by patients and family.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to appear before this Committee. I would welcome any questions you may have.

For more information about iCare Home Health services, please visit www.icarehomehealth.ca, For media inquiries or to arrange an interview, please contact: iCare Home Health Public Relations 905-491-6941 pr@icarehomehealth.ca

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