AFHTO has served as the forum for sharing FHT issues, concerns, and ideas, and formulating policy statements and recommendations to the government. The November 2009 FHT Leaders Retreat is an excellent example of collective idea-sharing and problem-solving: it achieved remarkable consensus on the most pressing issues for FHT success. The following March AFHTO board members met with the Health Minister’s staff and exchanged correspondence with Minister Deb Matthews. The Minister’s Office welcomes AFHTO as a credible advocacy voice for FHTs and will ensure on-going communications. The Ministry’s Primary Health Care branch has committed to meet regularly. Our August meeting began to deal with our most pressing issues. Coming out of that meeting, we heard the Ministry’s commitment to:
- Explore possible improvements to speed up the process to get FHT budgets approved;
- Work with individual FHTs that are experiencing cash flow problems to flow funds at the beginning of the month, rather than at the end;
- Work with a small group of FHT Executive Directors to find solutions to problems with financial reporting systems. This work is actively in progress;
- Consider the question of funding for travel and education for northern FHTs, in line with what is provided to other northern health organizations;
- Provide an opportunity for AFHTO to comment on an Ontario Telemedicine Network support policy that is in development; and
- Receive a proposal from AFHTO to develop and support FHT governance and strategic planning, and for cost-effective training to meet legislated obligations such as workplace health and safety, for potential project funding.
AFHTO continues to participate in the Ministry’s FHT Action Group, together with representatives from other associations representing the various health professions working within FHTs. This, along with additional contacts by board members with other organizations, has enabled AFHTO to establish and nurture relationships with organizations such as the Quality Improvement and Innovation Partnership (QIIP), the Ontario College of Family Physicians, the Association of Ontario Health Centres and others.