Patients First is the provincial government blueprint for health care transformation. The document titled: “Patients First: a proposal to strengthen patient – centred care in Ontario” focuses on the obvious need to place patients/clients at the centre of health service. When I mentioned this to friends of mine, they quickly remarked; “….and you need a policy paper to say this?”

It seems like an obvious point, that patients should be first in the health care system. However, we know for many, including those we serve, that it’s Patients Last. There is a shortage of services, long waiting lists and even denial of services, particularly for those who find themselves homeless and/or without health cards. This group has been given special attention in the background report to Patients First. The background report of the Primary Health Care Expert Advisory Committee identifies the need to provide universal access to primary care, something which has never been provided for the hard to serve. According to the report, these patients will be identified and assigned to a group in collaboration with public health, community health centres and local municipal services. According to the report, funding will be adjusted to provide for better service to these patients.

CMHA Niagara, Community Health Centres in Niagara, Niagara College, Brock University, and others in the Niagara Health Trust have documented their support for Patients First in a letter to the Honourable Dr. Eric Hoskins , Minister of Health and Long – Term Care We have noted  the need to support those marginalized clients who care providers are reluctant to serve.

We know too well that these patients are found on the streets or in jail without much care for their complex needs. As a result, they live 25 years less than the average Canadian…a gross insult to our so -called universal access to care. CMHA Niagara helped to start Quest Community Health Centre, knowing that our population would be better served in the Community Health Centre model of care. We have a history of supporting good primary care and we will continue on this trajectory.

Lives depend on it.