Realignment Plan for Health Services: RMEFNO Stands up to the Challenge
By: Ronald Dieleman, HC Link (via interview with France Jodoin, Executive Director of RMEFNO)
In June 2012, a wave of unease spread across Northern Ontario as Francophone communities wondered if their French language health services were at risk. These services were threatened by the application of the North East LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) realignment plan in two districts. Approximately 40 agencies in the district of Cochrane, which have their own governance scheme, were to be restructured into five clusters. In Temiskaming, 20 agencies, including one Francophone agency, were being merged under a single cluster. With this action, these Francophone agencies had lost governance over their own affairs! Réseau du mieux-être francophone du Nord de l'Ontario (RMEFNO) — an entity that provides various services in the territory of North East and North West LHINs, including French language health services planning amongst the LHINs — was not consulted in this process. On June 18th, RMEFNO took up the challenge and expressed its concerns by sending an official statement about the future of services in French, the health of Francophones, and assimilation.
Several negotiations were held with the Ministry and with the French Language Services Commissioner to find a solution. Following this, the LHIN reinitiated contact with RMEFNO and included it in all LHIN committees. Faced with these realignments, RMEFNO developed a proposal to adopt guiding principles and submitted it to the various leaders for approval.
Governance is crucial to the proper functioning of Francophone institutions and for a healthy community.
What lessons can we learn from this process? The very governance of Francophone agencies is impacted by realignment. Under it, they no longer administer their own program based on local needs, nor their budgets. Governance is crucial to the proper functioning of Francophone institutions and for a healthy community. Approval of the guiding principles meets the challenge to reorganize. What happened here will likely be repeated elsewhere in Ontario. The state of the provincial economy indicates that we can expect other realignments. According to France Jodoin, Executive Director of RMEFNO, we need to be part of the solution, in consideration of the state of the economy, and in collaboration with the LHINs.