Your Health: Helping You Connect to More Convenient Care Closer to Home

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February 7, 2023 Your Health: Helping You Connect to More Convenient Care Closer to Home
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7 Feb 2023
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February 7, 2023

The Empire Club of Canada Presents

Your Health: Helping You Connect to More Convenient Care Closer to Home

Chairman: Sal Rabbani, President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada

Kulvir Singh Gill, 1st Vice-President, Empire Club of Canada, Board Member, William Osler Health System, Senior Strategist, Clareo, Empire Club of Canada

Distinguished Guest Speakers
Kathryn Seeley, Head of Public Sector, Canada, TELUS Health
The Honourable Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier, Minister of Health, Government of Ontario
Andrea Marazzi, Country President, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.

Head Table Guests
John Capobianco, Senior Vice-President & Senior Partner National Public Affairs Lead, FleishmanHillard HighRoad
Jenna Donelson, 3rd Vice-President, Empire Club of Canada, Director, Public Affairs and Strategic Engagement, Humber College,
Sandra Ketchen, President & CEO, Spectrum Health Care,
Saurabh Popat, Director of Business Development, Public Sector, TELUS Health
Sal Rabbani, President of the Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada, Managing Partner, BDC Advisory Services, BDC,
Marsha Seca, Board Director, Empire Club of Canada,
Dr. Lydia Thurton, ND, Naturopathic Doctor,
Sue VanderBent, CEO, Home Care Ontario
Dr. Fabio Varlese, MD, FRCPC, Founder & CEO, The Toronto Clinic

It is a great honour for me to be here at the Empire Club of Canada today, which is arguably the most famous and historically relevant speaker’s podium to have ever existed in Canada. It has offered its podium to such international luminaries as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Audrey Hepburn, the Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, and closer to home, from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau; literally generations of our great nation's leaders, alongside with those of the world's top international diplomats, heads of state, and business and thought leaders.

It is a real honour and distinct privilege to be invited to speak to the Empire Club of Canada, which has been welcoming international diplomats, leaders in business, and in science, and in politics. When they stand at that podium, they speak not only to the entire country, but they can speak to the entire world.

Welcome Address by Sal Rabbani, President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada
Good afternoon. Welcome to the 119th season of the Empire Club of Canada. To our in-person attendees joining us at the Arcadian Court in Toronto, I'm delighted to be here with you today. And to our virtual audience joining in live or on demand, thank you for your participation and support. Our role at the Empire Club is to inspire thought leadership and learning as a trusted forum for conversations that matter. We provide a platform for leaders of Canada to profile their expertise and public work. We hope to spark meaningful connections and productive dialogue by giving you, our incredible colleagues and peers, access to this nation's leadership. Welcome. My name is Sal Rabbani, and I'm the President of the Board of Directors of the Empire Club of Canada.

To formally begin this afternoon, I want to acknowledge that we are gathering today on the traditional and treaty lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the homelands of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wyandot Peoples. We encourage everyone to learn more about the traditional territory on which you work and live.

I also wanted to just take pause to say we're deeply saddened by the devastation and loss of life caused by the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria. And I just wanted to take pause to observe a moment of silence.


Thank you. The Empire Club strives to bring you divergent and thought-provoking perspectives on politics, healthcare, technology, business, arts, and culture. Today's conversation on healthcare in Ontario is an effort to keep the community apprised of the recent developments and announcements released by the Ontario government. I hope today's conversation will allow you to learn more about your health plan for connected and convenient care, and that we can facilitate positive public dialogue on the implications and benefits of the plan for all Canadians.

Turning to today's program, I want to recognize the Empire Club's distinguished past presidents, many of whom are in the room today, board of directors, staff, and volunteers. Thank you for your contributions to making this event a success. The Empire Club of Canada is a not-for-profit organization, and we'd like to recognize our sponsors who generously support the club and make these events possible and complimentary for our online viewers to attend. Thank you to our lead event sponsors, Novartis, and TELUS Health; thank you to our VIP reception sponsor, Home care Ontario; and thank you to our supporting sponsors, Medtech Canada, the Ontario Medical Association, ParaMed, Rubicon Strategy; and thank you to our season sponsors Bruce Power, Hydro One, and TELUS.

For those joining us online, if you require technical assistance, please start a conversation with our team using the chat button on the right-hand side of your screen. We're accepting questions from the audience for our speakers, and you can undertake to do so by scanning that QR code found on your program booklet, or through the Q&A under the video player. It is now my pleasure to invite Kathryn Seeley, Head of Public Sector, Canada, TELUS Health, to introduce our guest speaker. Kathryn, welcome.

Opening Remarks by Kathryn Seeley, Head of Public Sector, Canada, TELUS Health
Thank you, Sal, and to the Empire Club, for welcoming all of us today. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. And on behalf of TELUS Health, it's my pleasure to introduce today's keynote speaker, the Honourable Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health in Ontario. I think it goes without saying that Minister Jones has one of the toughest healthcare leadership roles, not only in the province, but in Canada. And many of us who are leaders in our respective organizations understand how challenging the past few years have been. Minister Jones' focus, resilience, compassion, and relentless collaboration has been on full display, particularly, in her recent role as Ontario Solicitor General, where she oversaw the complex COVID19 vaccination rollout with retired General Rick Hillier.

And now in her role as Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Minister Jones leads the charge to transform Ontario's 75-billion healthcare system. She continues to remain grounded in these traits, to tackle the complex and challenging healthcare priorities facing Ontarians. By putting patients back in the centre of healthcare, and by being bold, innovative, creative, and collaborative, Minister Jones and her government are charting a courageous path forward for better access and connected care for all Ontarians where they need it, and when. The Minister's announcement last week that focused on Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care, encapsulates a plan forward based on, first, enabling the right care in the right place; second, providing faster access to care; and third, hiring more healthcare workers. In fact, less than a year into her role, the Minister has already put elements of this plan into motion, by expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists, accelerating hospital redevelopment projects, tackling wait times, and leveraging surgical and diagnostic centres, and breaking through the licencing log jams, enabling healthcare workers who are already registered and licenced in another Canadian province to practice in Ontario.

At TELUS Health, we share the same tenacity and dedication to enable and advance the health and wellbeing of Canadians through innovative digital health solutions, including remote patient monitoring, mental health services, virtual care, supporting seniors to live at home as long as they can, and developing connected systems of care. These services empower patients with their own health information, enable them to participate in their own care plans, and improve clinical efficiencies. The health and well being of our communities is a collaborative effort, and requires leadership of all of us together. So, without further ado, please join me in welcoming our speaker today, Minister Sylvia Jones. Thank you.

The Honourable Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier, Minister of Health, Government of Ontario
Thank you so much, Kathryn, I appreciate that. And thank you all for joining us today. You know, there's a few things happening in Ottawa—so, if you all start looking at your phone, I'll know that the speech is really boring, or something really exciting is coming out of Ottawa. But it, it just speaks to the so many things that we are doing here in Ontario, and of course across Canada, to try to improve our healthcare system. It's a pleasure to join you today. And I want to thank Sal and the entire team at the Empire Club, for giving me the opportunity to share a few words about our government's plan to improve healthcare. I also want to thank our sponsors for helping make today's event happen. I could see when I came into the room, how many people were so excited to see people and peers that they hadn't meet met in person for many months. So, it's wonderful to have that connection. I see many familiar faces in the room today from all sectors of our healthcare system, and I want to thank you for being here today and for your continued partnership.

Through my work in the last few months, I've travelled across the province to the frontlines of our healthcare system. I've witnessed the extraordinary skill and commitment of our healthcare workers. Our government, under the leadership of Premier Ford, is very grateful for the tremendous contributions of all of our healthcare workers, who provide exceptional patient care every single day to Ontarians. However, I've also seen that our healthcare system and healthcare workers are under significant pressure. For too many people, healthcare is too slow and too difficult to access. Too many people are waiting too long to get an appointment or their surgery. Too many Ontarians are having to travel too far to get their care. And they're spending too much time trying to navigate our healthcare system. The status quo is not working. Instead, we need to be bold, innovative, and creative. We need to build on the spirit of collaboration taking place across the healthcare sector, and to have the courage to look to other provinces and countries, to borrow the best of what the world is already doing. Which is why, last week, we introduced a comprehensive strategy to improve healthcare for all Ontarians called, "Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care." Our plan lays out a broad series of initiatives under three pillars: the right care in the right place, faster access to care, and hiring more healthcare workers. It focuses on providing people with a better healthcare experience by connecting them to more convenient options closer to their homes, shortening wait times for key services across the province, and growing the healthcare workforce now and for years to come.

As an example, we are providing more convenient care closer to home, by allowing pharmacists to treat and prescribe medications for 13 common ailments, all at no cost to you. Visiting a pharmacy can save you a trip to the doctor, while giving family physicians and nurse practitioners more time with people who have more serious concerns. I heard a story of a single mother who cried tears of joy when she went to her local pharmacy late at night with her children and was able to receive care for a urinary tract infection on the spot. She mentioned that her pain would often go untreated, due to her busy schedule. It's been just over one month since we made this policy change. And I'm pleased to share that pharmacists have already provided this service over 40,000 times in just over a month. Pharmacies and pharmacists are one of the most accessible entry points in our healthcare system, and I look forward to working with our partners to explore other ways that we can expand this work.

Another key part of our plan is to reduce wait times for surgeries and diagnostic procedures within our publicly funded healthcare system. We are expanding the use of community surgical and diagnostic centres, to eliminate backlogs and reduce wait times. By increasing access to surgeries and procedures such as MRI and CT scans, cataract surgeries, hip and knee replacements, colonoscopies, and endoscopies, this means that our loved ones who are experiencing chronic pain waiting for that knee surgery can help their quality of life back quicker. In addition to shortening wait times, providing these publicly funded services through community surgical and diagnostic centres will allow hospitals to focus their efforts and resources on more complex and high-risk surgeries. And the care Ontarians receive, and community surgical and diagnostic centres will be covered through their health card, never their credit card. Under Premier Ford, this will never change.

Another example of how we are providing convenient care in the community while helping to alleviate pressures on our hospital is by giving paramedics more flexibility to treat certain 911 patients at home, on scene, or take them to a more appropriate care facility in the community, rather than directly to an emergency department. More than 40 communities across Ontario have requested and been approved to implement 911 models of care for palliative and mental health and addictions. Patients and these models of care will continue to be expanded to different patient groups, including individuals with diabetes and epilepsy. So now, when a senior calls 911 because their loved one fell out of bed, but needs assistance to help lift them up, this won't automatically require a trip to emergency department, if they just need a helping hand at home by those paramedics.

Our government is also continuing to expand home care services while recruiting and training more home care workers. And I really want to thank our home care partners for all the work they do to ensure that Ontarians can safely live at home longer. This work help prevents unnecessary hospital and long-term care admissions and shorten hospital stays. And most importantly, they provide patients and families with the choice to stay in their home as they age or recover post-surgery. Under the leadership of Minister Calandra, we are on track to build almost 60,000 new and upgraded new long-term care beds, and we are increasing how much direct care residents in long-term care homes receive on a daily basis, helping to ensure that seniors and those who can no longer live independently, live with dignity in a safe and compassionate environment, in our long-term care homes. Last week, Minister Calandra and I announced two new projects that will connect long-term care residents with faster, more convenient access to diagnostic services, such as X rays, and ultrasounds. Thank you, Barb. Humber River.

We are continuing to make major investments in our hospitals. We have new builds, expansions, and redevelopment projects at 50 hospitals all across Ontario. And we are helping people of all ages that are living with mental health and addictions access the care they need, no matter where they live. While at the same time, better connecting and coordinating care through Ontario Health Teams, and to ensure Ontarians are able to see a healthcare provider when they need to and are doing even more to hire and train additional doctors, nurses, personal support workers, and other critical healthcare professionals. Which is why we are expanding primary care collaborative teams in Ontario. Our investment of 30 million dollars will create up to 18 new primary care teams and help bridge the gap in accessing care for vulnerable, modular, marginalized, and unattached patients, to ensure they are able to connect to care when and where they need it. Primary care teams have demonstrated how bringing healthcare providers together as one team can improve the patient experience because clinicians are working together, and not constantly having to spend time finding referrals to assist their patients. Do you agree, Rose? This means a person will only have to tell a health practitioner their story once, you will wait less time for renewals and referrals, and you will get the care you need faster.

We're moving forward with medical school expansion plans, training more nurses, and adding more training positions for physician assistants, and more education spots for nurse practitioners. We are continuing to focus on making it easier and faster for qualified health professionals, such as those from other provinces who are trained internationally, to begin working and providing care to people in Ontario faster. You often hear the Premier and I mention the word innovation. We are putting those words into action with a Models of Care Innovation Fund for hospitals, long-term care homes, home care providers, and Ontario Health Teams, that have innovative ways to improve service delivery for their patients.

These are just a few of the key highlights of our plan for connected and convenient care, which will strengthen all aspects of healthcare, particularly where Ontarians access it most frequently; in our hospital emergency departments, in community settings like pharmacies and primary care, and in long-term care homes, and through care delivered right in people's homes. Our government continues to make significant investments in our public healthcare system. Since 2018, we have invested an additional 14 billion dollars into the health budget, which does not include the spending as a result of the pandemic. And through this plan, Ontarians will see and feel real improvements in the care they receive, as we build a better healthcare system for future generations. Whether it's an emergency in the middle of the night, or a problem that's been bothering you for years, no matter where you live, we want to connect you to more convenient care closer to home.

And we know, today, Premier Ford is in Ottawa, getting the best deal possible for Ontarians, to ensure we get our fair share of healthcare funding from the federal government. The provinces are united, and we all agree that the status quo isn't working. Premier Ford and the rest of Canada's premiers remain united in calling on the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer to 35 percent of provincial territorial healthcare spending. As Premier Ford has said many times, "you cannot manage what you don't measure". All Canadians deserve to have data at their fingertips that tells them how health systems are performing, and to hold governments accountable for their performance. We support the federal government in this regard. We also agreed that this funding would allow us to further increase investments in key areas that we are already investing in at record levels, like home care, long-term care, increasing our healthcare workforce, mental health and addiction support, and improving access to primary care. I know Ontario's interests will be well represented with Premier Ford being our voice at the table in Ottawa. And we all look forward to finally hearing that the federal government will come to the table as our partner, as we continue to improve and innovate Ontario's healthcare system. Because, after all, it's about your health. Thank you for your time today.

Sal Rabbani
I thank you very much, Deputy Premier and Minister. I'd now like to welcome Mr. Kulvir Singh Gill, my good friend, First Vice-President, Board Director of the Empire Club of Canada, and Senior Strategist at Clareo, to moderate today's discussion.

Kulvir Singh Gill, 1st Vice-President, Empire Club of Canada, Board Member, William Osler Health System, Senior Strategist, Clareo, Empire Club of Canada
I feel like I'm a dozen stakeholders in one for you right now. Because for you and your ministry—I'm on the board of William Osler Health System, and community hospitals are so close to my heart. It's where my kids were born, where my parents' lives were saved, and they're doing incredible work every day. Osler is also part of this amazing adventure we're about to set out on with TMU, to launch a new medical school in Brampton. And so, I'm also intrigued about how we're going to train a new generation of doctors. And I'm also part of a food bank called Seva Food Bank in Peel, that provides emergency food to thousands of people every month. And these are the ones that are being impacted by global inequalities, racialized poverty, and the impact of food insecurity. So, I'm really keen on the impact of you know, hunger and poverty on the social determinants of health, and how all that comes together. But most importantly, I'm the son of two 70-year-olds, living in my house in a multi-generational family. And as you know, if you want to know what's happening in the healthcare system, you talk to seniors, because they know what's happening on the ground like nobody else. And while my parents may not call it ageing in place, it is a huge priority in their lives, making sure that they have what they need to be able to live with their grandchildren—less about me, it's more about the grandkids. But I know that home care is one of your priorities as well. So, we know that helping people to receive care closer to home and at home is really important to all Ontarians and the government. So, what's your vision? Talk a little bit specifically about home care and making sure putting patients back at the centre of that.

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
So, frankly, you said it at the very end. I mean, with the greatest of respect to everyone who is in this room, my stakeholder is the patient, and my partners are everybody in this room. So, when we assess and make determinations on where policy changes are happening or should be happening, it, there has to be a how does this improve that patient's experience—not necessarily outcome, because we shouldn't be ever shying away from the fact that Ontario and Canada has an exceptional healthcare system. But there are opportunities for improvement. And to me, the patient experience is driving a lot of the change and the motivation that we see, and, frankly, encouraging the innovation, particularly on the home care piece. You know, in our most recent budget, we committed a billion dollars to Community Care Home care. Why did we do that? Because to your point, that individual is first and foremost impacted by the care that he or she receives in community. And an incredibly strong healthcare system in our hospitals, a strong long-term care system, only works to the point where we also have a strong home care and community-based system. And Minister Calandra and I are very, very driven to make sure that the changes that we see in long-term care and hospital do not in a negative way impact our community care. You know, in our first term of government, one of the first things that we did was build up, offer free tuition, and provide, basically expand, the personal support care worker model. Because we saw that there weren't enough people who were in it, they weren't staying long enough, and so we're building that pie, to ensure that when your mum and dad need that extra service, that extra hour of service, it will be there in community, wherever you are.

Kulvir Singh Gill
Absolutely, absolutely. Thank you. So, to maybe play on that term of home care, I think, during the pandemic, all of us experienced a little bit of home care through the remote world. And, you know, many of us had to engage with our primary physicians, our family doctors, through different technology providers there. And I think we all felt that there was more work done in three years on remote medicine that's probably been done in the last 30 years. And we all saw that. But that's kind of the tip of the iceberg, right? When you think of technology and innovation that's needed in modernizing healthcare delivery. My day job is a management consultant, and I'm an innovation guy. But the problem with innovation is that it's always around the corner, the benefits are always beyond the horizon. If we'd make these investments that one day, they'll come back to us. So, I guess my question to you is, there is a lot of money being put into innovation into these technology advances, top then down through the whole system there. But what's, you know, what's the impact it's going to make in the lives of patients there? And you know, immediate impact—like, I'll say, in my lifetime, or in the next few years—where do you start seeing all these innovation, technology impacts really start to make a difference in patients lives?

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
Well, I think it's happening already. So, again, I will talk about a partnership that we have, successfully, with the OMA. You know, during COVID, we had the opportunity to make sure that people still had access to their family docs, so we had a virtual piece. Now, as we understand where those benefits are, and where they can work, and where they're not as effective, now we have an agreement with the OMA that says, if I'm just getting a call from my family doc that says, here's the results of your test, I love the fact that that can happen over the phone, in a remote setting. If I have an emerging mental health issue with a loved one, that's more appropriate in person. So, working with partners like the OMA, you start to drill down on where are the lessons that we learned during COVID, whether we wanted to or not. Where were they helpful, and where can we keep using them. And I'm, I'm proud of that work, because it allows us to take some, for lack of a better word, pilot projects, test cases—thank you, COVID—and actually see how it could drive better care with that patient-clinician interaction.

Kulvir Singh Gill
Absolutely. If I can double click on that, at the heart of anything we want to do remotely, our kind of coordination of care electronically comes down to data and records, and making sure that data is available for the different providers who are actually providing the services there. But we all talk about AI—we were having a fun conversation about ChatGPT replacing Google as our primary physician—but you know, the data that goes into it. So how—and we also know that hospitals are still using fax machines to transfer and communicate internally sometimes. So, how does this come about and in your mind and strategy of the government to do this in a way that's safe, responsible, but actually is going to be the enabler of this transformation.

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
So, to me, it's, it's finding where those innovative models are happening, and then building on them, and sharing that best practice. So, again, I'll, I'll give a shout out to Humber River Hospital, you know. You have a brand-new hospital in the province of Ontario that clinicians can talk to each other without having the need for a phone, or fax, or an in-person. You know, quelle surprise, it works. It is seamless. And we've seen with some of the work that we're, we're funding now in Niagara Region, and with St. Joe's in Hamilton, the digital piece is going to be really important. Look, nobody wants to tell their story multiple times to their family doc, and then their specialist, and then their surgeon, and perhaps a nurse practitioner. We need to get better at that, because right, as I said at the very beginning, it has to be a better patient experience. And one of the ways to do that is not having to have someone regularly and often relive what they're experiencing in their in their health system or their health experience. I do think that we have some, we've come with some good, innovative projects. We just need to keep building on them to make sure that the organizations have the capacity...

Kulvir Singh Gill

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
...and that we can prove success. Because let's face it, there are people who will be more hesitant about embracing some technologies, about embracing some of this. But if we can prove through successful models that they don't have to be worried about it, that their organization has the capacity to do it, then we're in a good place. I, I'm not going to force people to do it. I'm going to show them where there is success, and they'll want to do it. That's, that's my goal.

Kulvir Singh Gill
Absolutely, absolutely. Just a reminder, I have my children's iPad with me today, so I can take questions from the audience. So, if any of you want to ask questions, if you go into the program there, there's a QR code that you can scan and send some questions to me, and I'm weaving them into the conversation as we speak there. So, you mentioned right now that the Premier is in Ottawa, having conversations with the federal government. And the provinces are united on many fronts, or in terms of their asks. I think that all speaks to the common challenges that are being faced by all healthcare systems in not just our country, but globally. And we look at—and many times, the references are made to countries in Europe or Australia, and the models that are emerging there. And some things we're doing better, but in lots of cases, they're, they're getting things right and we need to be looking at that. So, specifically, around this whole private-public partnerships that have emerged in the last few weeks, and the leadership that you're taking there to, you know, support, enable, advanced access to care and high-quality outcomes. What can we learn as a publicly funded healthcare system? What, what are you learning from outside when you look at how other countries or jurisdictions are dealing with this?

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
Yeah, it's great question. So, in November, I was at the federal provincial-territorial meeting, where the health ministers from across Canada came together. And we, what we started with—which I found very useful—was how are each of the provinces dealing with the post-surgery backlogs? How are each of the provinces taking the best practices that they saw—or didn't see—during the height of the pandemic, and incorporating them, that into standard operating? So, we literally went around the table and did that. And, you know, I have to say, we are, Ontario is behind, particularly, Alberta and British Columbia on the community surgery piece. They're in, they're sitting around 20 percent; we're in the single digits. So, we can absolutely do better on that piece. But I have to say, on the recruitment, on the training, on making sure that our College of Nurses, and the Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario are processing, accessing, and ultimately approving licencing for internationally trained graduates. We're in a pretty good place. There are lots of things that we can learn in terms of how are BC and Alberta doing that, and keeping their public comfortable with it? Because let's face it, we have over 800 surgical and diagnostic centres in the province of Ontario. This is not new territory for the Ontario government. But there is still a hesitancy in a percentage of the public. So, I think part of my job, your job, is to ensure that our patients and our public understand that they don't need to be scared of this, that this is about accessing a publicly funded system through a different method. And we can make those stories and share that experience, so that we have, we start to approach where British Columbia and Alberta are. But on a lot of the other pieces, I gotta give credit. There's, there's a lot of innovation happening in Ontario in our in our healthcare system.

Kulvir Singh Gill
There must be a level of frustration with some of the misconceptions that are out there with how these partnerships are being rolled out. And not just the outcomes, the positive outcomes there, but this risk of a slippery slope and what we might descend to. Do you want to maybe speak to some of those?

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
I find if I don't read Facebook, it helps. Yeah. So, I mean, healthcare is important to everyone, right? So, people are accessing information wherever they're comfortable, and sometimes it is in places that don't have all the facts. So, we do have to be careful of that. But, you know, that's, frankly, where our government and my job is, to make sure that those misconceptions or fears are countered with actual stories. That's why I said 40,000 people in just over a month have used it, and it's for 13 minor ailments in our pharmacies. It's such a small amount. But imagine how those families those individuals feel about having a seamless, faster pathway to get their symptoms treated. That's what it's all about showing results.

Kulvir Singh Gill
Absolutely. Before I take some other questions from the floor there, I want to touch on one additional theme there. It says, you know, we want to transform the system, and we want to do things differently. But at the heart of all of that is, we've got to have the people to do it. And I think I want to give you a chance to speak to this as your, you know, your healthcare plan for connected convenient care puts the focus, rightly, on the patient there, and investments in OHT's, primary care teams, family health teams, these are all critical parts of that. But that actually is it is even greater investment of people—and not just physicians, but all of those providers there. And this is one of your major pillars. So, I want to give you a chance to speak to the demand side is going through the roof, and it seems to be almost infinite; but on the supply side, the huge constraints are there. What are we doing to deal with this in the short term, and then what's the long-term fix for this?

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
Yeah, thank you. And you're absolutely right. We've done some short, medium, and long-term changes that are already impacting. So, by directing the College of Nurses of Ontario to expedite, review, and, ultimately, licence internationally educated nurses, we've had the highest number of nurses licenced in 2022 that we've ever seen. Do I expect that every single year? No. But it does mean that we're dealing with a backlog that existed, and a frustration for people who wanted to work in the system and were being blocked. We've done the same thing with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Those are immediate things that we've now seen over six thousand new, internationally educated nurses working in the province of Ontario that weren't here in 2022.

The other pieces, absolutely, take longer. You know, when we open up residency spots, when we expand the Learn and Stay Program to ensure that nurses, paramedics, lab techs, can get free education, and tuition and books paid for, if they stay in an underserved area for two years. That is a longer-term solution. But you know, Jill Dunlop, in Minister of Colleges and Universities, will tell you that the September intake for those programs, particularly for nursing, was the highest that they've seen in many years. So, again, you start to promote, you start to talk about how this is impacting in a positive way. And people take that leap to say, I want to upskill, I want to be in the healthcare industry. You, you want to work in the province of Ontario, in Canada, in healthcare? Pick your province, pick your specialty, pick your community, because there will be a job for you. And I think that's really important for us to say. You know, I've said to a few leaders, you know, why don't you call it a crisis? Well, I won't call it a crisis, because a) it's not a crisis, because we're dealing with it, and b) I don't want to scare people. I want people to know that they can walk into that emergency department and get service if they need it. I want people not to hesitate if they think that they have an issue, and they should go visit and book an appointment with the primary care practitioner. So, we need to do that. And ultimately, the long, ultimate long-term is, of course, two brand new medical schools in the province of Ontario. And I have to say, the last time it happened was a Progressive Conservative government.

Kulvir Singh Gill
Just to follow up on the talent side—and I've seen this too, in my own circles there—that actually, the pandemic hasn't scared away a younger generation from a career in healthcare. It's actually inspired them to deal with it, because they see the immediacy, and the relevance, and the impact, that healthcare has in each of our lives and our community health there. So, there's people coming in—and it's great that you're opening up spots coming in—but there's also, we had a generational departure from the sector. And it continues to happen where we have—especially, nurses—frontline workers there, where the burnout, and the wellness, and the mental health, and the burden of responsibility that's going on. Where there is no tension, no slack left in the system, and the multiple shifts, and everything that's happening that space there. So, maybe speak a little to what we're doing to take care of our, the good people that are in the system that are fighting the good fight?

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
Yeah, that's a really good point. You know, when many of us had the option of working remotely, of being safe in our homes, there were, literally, thousands of healthcare professionals, paramedics, nurses, doctors, who continued on the front line. And that was absolutely stressful for them. We didn't know, we didn't know. They didn't know what they could do to protect themselves and their patients. So, that stressor, coupled with, now, an increased supply of demand, that people who, perhaps for a year or two, didn't go to their family doctor and should have, to get some of those issues dealt with or questioned, there's, there's definitely a bump. The mental health piece, I don't need to tell this room that we're seeing increases in impacts with our young people in particular, but everyone really. So, acknowledging that, making sure that we have the supports in place, and, ultimately, building a bigger group to help out.

We didn't talk about the internationally educated piece very much. But there, there are thousands of people who would love to work in the province of Ontario. And we need to work. And this is one place where the federal government needs to help us. We need to work on the immigration side. There is no doubt that we have an ageing and an expanding population in the province of Ontario. And, frankly, we have a population that is also going to expect, rightfully, a higher level of service than perhaps our grandparents and our parents did. So, coupled with all of those pieces of emerging innovation that we see in surgeries, of the expanded population, we do need to have more healthcare professionals practising in the province of Ontario. And we're doing it domestically through our school system, and we're also doing it internationally by saying, if you want to work in the province of Ontario, if you want to work in Canada, we are going to make that easier. Whether it's next door and want to live in Ontario, or across the world and want to live in Ontario.

Kulvir Singh Gill
Thank you. I know nobody wants to talk about the pandemic, but there are, I think we're at, there's enough of a distance, appreciation now, for many of the lessons that have come out of that force. And I think one I want you to maybe touch on is how we really mobilized the entire healthcare system around testing, and then the vaccine rollout, and—something I've never seen in my lifetime—I think, in terms of the amount of engagement there, the interest from the public, obviously. But what are some lessons there around really, you know, when there's this singular focus around getting shots in arms? What are some lessons that we can take back for how we're transforming our system?

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
Okay, so I'm going to cover a couple of things there...

Kulvir Singh Gill

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
...because the, while I will never thank COVID for anything, the one thing I will say is it drove cooperation and partnerships. I'll give a very real example. In my own community, my local community hospital never connected with their long-term care home. They didn't need to, there was no reason to. The long-term care home had some outbreaks, had some struggles, the hospital comes in, helps them out. There's a partnership, there's a relationship. Part of my goal in the ministry is to build that partnership and keep it going, which is why I think the Ontario Health Teams are really going to make sure that in a community, all of the organizations, all of the individuals who can help Mrs. Smith, are going to be at that Ontario Health Team table, and be part of the solution. So, our goal is to see that, those bridges—that are pretty tenuous right now, because they just started working with each other—are now getting strengthened through the use of Ontario Health Teams. We need to do more of that, because the patient experience doesn't care who you're affiliated with. The patient wants to know that, when I go to my physician, they have a seamless, easy pathway to direct me to the next route. Whether that's rehabilitation, whether it's palliative long-term care, surgery, it doesn't matter. There has to be a route. And I love the fact that we have those bridges started, and I'm seeing with the Ontario Health Teams that, individually and in community, they want to keep that partnership and relationship going.

Kulvir Singh Gill
Absolutely. I think, you know, OHT's had to take a bit of a backseat during the pandemic, even though there was so much effort in and excitement for it. But I think—I see it now, even in Brampton and our OHT formation, seeing that as the path forward. You know, obviously, the fixation is on beds and the emerge. But that is only going to change when the whole system around it is being transformed, and bringing the partnerships into the mix there is a huge part of that. Last couple of questions. I'm always curious about, you know, the Ministry of Health is, unfortunately, not a lifetime appointment for you. It is a finite amount of time. What is your—for you, what is success in the role? What are you trying to do in the time that you have there? What's the one thing you can say, if I can move this needle, I'll be happy with the work I've done?

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
So, when Christine Elliott was the Minister of Health, she gave me the opportunity to announce my local Ontario Health Team in Dufferin-Caledon. And I went back, and I spoke to Christine, and I said, you know, if we get this, right, we're good. We are in a place where people have confidence and know what to expect when they deal with health issues. And I sat—it was a, it was a paramedic bay—and the organizations that were so excited to finally be able to get together and work together in a structured way, was something that I have never seen before. And I've made a lot of announcements on behalf of a lot of different governments, but I still remember that afternoon going, these organizations are embracing this. So, what do I measure as success? I measure success when the bridges that have begun with organizations and OHT's can be strengthened, and can, ultimately, be shown to make a difference to the patient. Because right now, it's really more about organizations working together. And the next step is actually showing the patient how their quality of life will improve, and interaction with the healthcare system will improve.

Kulvir Singh Gill

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
Well, that surviving three years.

Kulvir Singh Gill
One last one, Sylvia. Where's the, what's, what's part of the job that gives you joy right now? Because there's so many challenges, so many hardships. What's—tell me something, day in the life of Minister of Health, that is, this part is pretty cool?

The Hon. Sylvia Jones
So, I have to say, and I'm, I'm going to compare between, as Solicitor General, you know, you had the OPP who are employees of the province, you had corrections, probation and parole, who are employees of the province. I got no employees, I have partners. They're all my partners. And the policy changes that we can make at the ministry are valuable. But ultimately, I need willing partners who embrace those opportunities for change and are willing to implement them. Because I can't do without you. And so, I am so grateful that to date, to date, the willingness, and innovation, and ideas, that are coming to our team in the ministry, really make our job so much easier. So, thank you. Thank you.

Kulvir Singh Gill
Thank you. Minister Jones, thank you for a wonderful conversation. Thank you for your leadership. And thank you for the great work you're doing for the province. And we're all really excited to not just hear what comes out of Ontario, out of Ottawa today, but more importantly, how that actually gets implemented to make our, the lives of our patients in Ontario even better. So, thank you for your time today. Over to you, Sal.

Sal Rabbani
Thank you. Thank you very much, Kulvir Singh Gill, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Sylvia Jones. I'd now like to invite Andrea Marazzi, Country President, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada, to deliver the appreciation remarks.

Note of Appreciation by Andrea Marazzi, Country President, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.
Thank you. Thank you so much for the introduction. Thank you to the Empire Club for setting up this event—it was long due, and it's great to be in person all together. So, I want, first, to take the opportunity to say thank you to the Premier, Sylvia Jones, and our government, for the extraordinary leadership during the pandemic, as well as to the many workers healthcare workers that have been, you know, put in huge commitment to be here for us and deliver the care we needed under extreme conditions. So, I think it's, it's important to acknowledge what the Minister said before, that, yes, we made huge progress during the past decades—and actually, the centre, when we look back, the quality of care, the medicine that we've been able to bring here to patients has been, you know, simply extraordinary. But the past few years, you know, they've given us, give us a lesson in terms of what we need to change, and that the system isn't necessarily working anymore. So—and I think we have to celebrate, we have to acknowledge what your government has done, not only to call for bold decision, bold solution and creative solution, but also to put action into place. And your health, you know, more connected, more convenient plan is really a very ambitious, I have to say—probably the most ambitious plan I've seen across not only Canada, but the globe. But also, is really designed for patient, and for them. To really deliver this really best-in-class experience. If we combine this with record investment—and again, I see my colleagues around the globe, they're very jealous of what we see in Ontario.

And the amount of resources that are, really, for the life sciences sector is tremendous. Together with, potentially, more funding from the federal government in the next few days, I do believe it's going to set up this province to deliver a world-class patient experience at scale and at speed. And Deputy, I want to also tell you that, as Novartis, we are here. We are here committed to do our part. We want to be part of the solution. We want to be part of this bold, you know, action to really deliver better care, better medicine to, you know, as many patients as we can. And as part of this commitment, we are increasing our effort and footprint here in Ontario. So, this meeting is coming timely, because we're opening up, you know, this week as we speak, our new office in Toronto. So, it's, it's great because we have a committed workforce, very qualified. We're also changing our strategy. So, we want to become, you know, not only in Canada, but worldwide, a company that has really, is a leading player in innovative medicine. And as part of this change, we've realized that we need to really focus our effort where we can bring our expertise.

So, you know, cardiovascular disease and cancer are our top priorities for us as an organization. We know they're the top two killers in any given province, and Ontario is not an exception. They have a huge impact on the healthcare system and budget, and a tremendous impact on society because of the burden on all of us. And in our quest to really, you know, hopefully, we are, we want to be as ambitious as the Ontario Team, to hopefully bend the curve of mortality and morbidity for this disease moving forward. We want to build on the investment that we've done over the past few years, more than 3 million that we invested to support the creation of arterial clinics in the province. And today, we are announcing an initial funding of 1.5 million dollars to partner with the Secondary Prevention Network. So, it's a network in Ontario of, you know, health teams, more than seven clinics, with the, with the goal to treat and redefine the standard of care for more than 58,000 patients over the next few years. I do believe it's very powerful, because it's gonna serve for very, you know, very sick and high-risk patient population. So, you know, people that they had already a heart attack or a stroke. One event, they are at risk of having a second event in one or two years. So, if we are able to really manage the risk profile better—and we know most of these events are preventable—closer to home, because are also nurse practitioner enabled, this will be a phenomenal win for everyone, and very much connected with the strategy.

Now listening to, listening to the Minister's words today, I do believe that—I firmly believe that the future needs more collaboration among everyone working in the healthcare system. And as Novartis, the life science industry, other sectors, we have, you know, a huge role to play. And somebody here, I think, as we mentioned before, the platform on strategic private-public partnership, this is huge. This will help, potentially, to address, you know, the biggest challenges, the biggest issues for society and humanity, at scale and speed. So, with that, thank you. Thank you very much for your leadership and insights. Thank you, audience, for being here today with us, and I wish you a wonderful afternoon. Thank you.

Concluding Remarks by Sal Rabbani
Thank you very much, Andre. And thanks again to TELUS Health, Novartis, and all our sponsors for their support. And to the Honourable Deputy Premier, Minister, and everyone joining us today, in person or online. As a club of record, the Empire Club of Canada events are available to watch and listen to on demand on our website. The recording of this event will be available shortly, and everyone registered with a link will receive an email.

Our next event of the 119th season will be at 1 King West on Monday, February the 13th. We'll be joined by Phil Verster, President and CEO of Metrolinx, to explore Metrolinx's capital and construction projects, and discuss how Metrolinx is working with communities to build and deliver a seamless transportation network. Thanks again for joining us today. We invite you to stay and join us in the lobby for continued networking. Have a great afternoon. This meeting is now adjourned.

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Your Health: Helping You Connect to More Convenient Care Closer to Home

February 7, 2023 Your Health: Helping You Connect to More Convenient Care Closer to Home