LHIN and partners collaborate on first phase of non-urgent patient transfers

NORTH BAY—A patient-focused model to help get Northerners to and from their community hospital for non-urgent health care appointments at larger hospital referral centres will begin in the new year.

“Northerners want better coordinated care, especially when they are older and need to travel long distances from their home community hospital to a larger hospital for tests or specialist consults,” says Louise Paquette, CEO, North East Local Health Integration Network (NE LHIN). “After several years of hard work between the NE LHIN and area partners, this new model will help hospitals improve patient flow while getting patients to and from hospital-based medical appointments quickly and safely.”

This made-in-the-North solution addresses a long-standing problem of patients being delayed at larger hospitals as they await a return trip by ambulance to their home community. Currently, across Northeastern Ontario, virtually all long-distance non-urgent patient transfers are done using ambulances, which often means a return ride isn’t promptly available if the ambulance is called out to respond to an emergency.

Non-urgent patient transfers are not new to the people of Manitoulin, as the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services board has offered this service from both Manitoulin Health Centre sites for over three years, thanks to a pilot project that saw retired ambulances refitted to become non-urgent transfer patient vehicles.

Fern Dominelli, DSB CAO, is pleased with the NE LHIN’s announcement.

“It’s great news,” he told The Expositor. “We’re looking forward to a permanent model, not just six-month extensions to the pilot project.”

“If we’re interested, we’ll likely apply,” he said, noting that the DSB would have to review the request for proposals when it becomes available.

“We’ve been waiting for this (announcement) for awhile,” the CAO added. “It’s about right time, right place, right service,” Mr. Dominelli said of the service, adding that the delivery of a patient should be based on that patient’s condition, “not expediency.”

The initial routes to be phased in were selected based on a number of factors including the readiness of the area providers. Starting in early 2017, dedicated multi-patient vehicles will operate to and from both Timmins and District Hospital and Health Sciences North in Sudbury, including: Elliot Lake to Espanola to Sudbury (165 km); Mindemoya to Little Current to Espanola to Sudbury (163 km); Kapuskasing to Smooth Rock Falls to Timmins (166 km); and Cochrane to Iroquois Falls to Matheson to Timmins (224 km).

The model is being put in place by the NE LHIN’s Non-Urgent Patient Transportation Leadership Working Group, which has worked to analyze the scope of the challenge, test pilots, like the DSB’s, and develop a new model.

Next steps will focus on finalizing the plan between the LHIN, participating hospitals and Emergency Medical Services (EMS); selecting a transportation service provider; designing and establishing dedicated non-urgent patient waiting areas in Timmins and Sudbury; and setting up the central non-urgent patient transportation dispatch function for the region.