Ontario postpones part of its health care overhaul due to COVID-19
Ontario Premier Doug Ford makes a transit announcement in Toronto on Tuesday, March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
TORONTO -- The Ford government is suspending a major portion of its healthcare overhaul due to COVID-19, just weeks before the changes were set to take place.
The province began integrating Ontario's healthcare system in 2019, dissolving agencies such as Cancer Care Ontario and eHealth Ontario into a singular mega-bureaucracy called Ontario Health.
As part of the overhaul, 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN), which administer provincial funding to hospitals across Ontario, were to be collapsed into Ontario Health.
While the government planned to merge the LHINs into Ontario Health on April 1, the Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday the transfer will be postponed "as the province continues to actively respond to COVID-19."
"We heard loud and clear from Ontario Health that the LHINs are extremely busy and singularly focused on COVID-19, and not to disrupt that right now," Travis Kann, a spokesman for Health Minister Christine Elliott, said.
The government said the transfer will still happen in the future, but with no set date in mind.
Kann confirmed that for the time being hospital funding will still flow through the 14 LHINs, which are now controlled by five "transitional regional leads" who are overseeing the consolidation.