Clients benefit when access improves to integrated services

When time was of the essence, family members of a palliative patient were able to say goodbye as a result of hospice services merging with Community Care Northumberland (CCN).

Community Care Northumberland, a community support services agency with offices throughout Northumberland County, was able to arrange transportation in short order to help family members in Hastings get to Campbellford where their loved one was in hospital. Their relative passed away about an hour after they arrived.

“They were so thankful we were able to do that,” recalls Trish Baird, executive director of Community Care Northumberland. “Because we have these types and range of services within our organization we were able to help.”

This is one example of how Community Care Northumberland clients benefit as a result of the voluntary integration of the community’s two hospice organizations with CCN in December 2010, a process led by the Central East Local Health Integration Network (Central East LHIN).

Community Care Northumberland welcomed the agencies’ front-line staff and volunteers as it took on the accountability for the delivery of community-based hospice and palliative services.

“The skills they brought to the job were very specific around hospice and palliative care.”

Baird says they were able to share their expertise with other Community Care staff as well.

“We took what we hoped was the best of both organizations. For the client, it’s more of a one-stop shopping in the sense that all of our staff can now promote all of our services.”

For instance, Community Care Northumberland can help support someone who is recently-widowed by keeping them connected to the community through social groups or Community Dining programs.

Clients who access hospice services also benefit from Community Care Northumberland’s friendly visiting and meals on wheels programs.

“There’s not a huge addition of services but there’s more of a cross-pollination of services,” Baird says. “I don’t think that would have naturally happened if we hadn’t taken the time to work through the integration process.”

Community Care Northumberland has served 326 hospice clients in the past 10 months and has 150 hospice volunteers.

Community Care City of Kawartha Lakes (CCCKL) is also now providing hospice services. The local hospice agency became part of CCCKL through a facilitated integration planning process supported by the Central East Local Health Integration Network in 2010-2011.

Today, Community Care City of Kawartha Lakes provides a range of hospice services, including training volunteers to provide in-home visits to people who have end-of-life illness.

“We provide support to them and their families in their homes,” says Catherine Danbrook, CEO of Community Care City of Kawartha Lakes.

Palliative care volunteers also support patients in local hospitals. In addition, the organization provides training for hospital volunteers and staff.

People have access to a variety of bereavement and grief supports and specialized groups such as coping with suicide.

Danbrook says one way hospice clients benefit from the integration is through increased ease of access to specialized ambulances and wheelchair transportation vehicles since the services are now offered under one roof.

Meanwhile, other CCCKL clients now have access to bereavement groups as a result of the integration.

“There was an immediate positive impact from an administration perspective,” Danbrook adds. “The person overseeing the stand-alone hospice program was able to devote more time to programming and by consequence then that certainly assisted the team and the delivery of care to our clients and our stakeholders.”

In the Central East LHIN, Integration is defined as "improving the health care experience by creating a seamless system of care." As a key strategic direction, first approved by the Central East LHIN Board in 2007, the LHIN is focused on creating an integrated system of care that is easily accessed, sustainable and achieves good outcomes. Integration is also a key enabler in the achievement of the four aims set for the system in the LHIN’s current Community First 2013-2016 Integrated Health Service Plan.

Since 2007, the Central East LHIN has been actively working with health service providers to better integrate the health care system. As defined by the Local Health System Integration Act, integration includes to co-ordinate services and interactions between different persons and entities; to partner with another person or entity in providing services or in operating; to transfer, merge or amalgamate services, operations, persons or entities; to start or cease providing services or to cease to operate or to dissolve or wind up the operations of a person or entity.

For more information on current and past integration initiatives in the Central East LHIN, including mental health services in the LHIN’s North East cluster, community based health services in DurhamPeterborough and Scarborough, community and hospital based services in Haliburton and the City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland Countycardiac rehabilitation services in Durham Region and Scarborough and much more, please visit the Central East LHIN website and click on “Resource Documents – Integration.” 

Submitted by Natalie Hamilton, Axiom News.  To contact Natalie, please email natalie@axiomnews.ca.