Riding the Third Rail: The Story of Ontario's Health Services Restructuring Commission, 1996-2000
Duncan Sinclair, Mark Rochon and Peggy Leatt
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In an attempt to create a functioning provincial health services system, the Ontario government established the Health Services Restructuring Commission (HSRC), giving it a four-year mandate to restructure approximately 225 public hospitals and to advise the government on related services. "Riding the Third Rail" tells the story of how the HSRC developed a vision of an effective health services system for the twenty-first century and attempted to fill a policy and leadership void. In the face of fierce resistance to change, especially by hospitals, courageous local leaders created workable strategies for information management, the re-engineering of primary care, and the integration of primary, home, and long-term care with hospital care that resulted in the establishment of acute-care hospitals and the elimination of 9,000-10,000 empty beds. The authors describe the commission's frustration with the slow pace of change caused by powerful interests groups, prolonged legal jousting, a policy vacuum, and political timidity.