NL will install new, unified health info system
April 12, 2023
ST. JOHN’S – Newfoundland and Labrador’s four regional health authorities have now been amalgamated into a single authority, which Health Minister Tom Osborne (pictured) says will save money and improve healthcare services. “There are inefficiencies in healthcare. We have the largest spend per capita on healthcare and some of the worse outcomes so we do need to modernize healthcare.”
Folding the four authorities into one was a recommendation of the premier’s economic recovery team and was supported by the more recent N.L. Health Accord, which outlined ways to revisit how healthcare is delivered in the province. “The healthcare system was really last redesigned when we had five children for every senior, and now we have two seniors for every child in the province. So the face of healthcare needs to change,” Osborne told CBC News.
Osborne said the way health information was shared among health authorities is one example of inefficiency. That will change with a new health information system, which he says will be implemented in the next 18-24 months.
Currently, said Osborne, if a patient is transferred from one area of the province to St. John’s, their file has to be printed and sent with the patient.
“That is really antiquated,” he said. “The new health authority’s unified health information system will give every health professional in the province access to a patient’s file, should they need it. So, it’s more timely service for the patient.”
Osborne also says there will be large savings in procurements as the single health authority will be buying what it requires in larger volumes, instead of four tenders going out for four different organizations.
There are shortages of workers in several areas of the four health authorities, noted Osborne, but he expects a single health authority will one day have fewer employees than the four authorities combined. But any reductions, he said, would come from attrition rather than layoffs.
Progressive Conservative MHA and Opposition health critic Paul Dinn says he wants to know more about how healthcare in rural areas of the province will be affected.
The province’s Official Opposition agrees there will be savings in integrating the four health authorities but also says it’s unclear what it will mean for patient care in rural and remote Newfoundland and Labrador.
“How will this better address the regional disparities for those up in Labrador? I don’t know how that is going to roll out,” said Dinn.
Former Eastern Health CEO David Diamond will be the CEO of the new integrated health authority, and chief operating officers have been hired for each of five regions: eastern-urban, eastern-rural, central, western and Labrador-Grenfell.
The provincial government hasn’t announced the official name of the new health authority. Osborne says that will happen at an official unveiling in April.