NORTH BAY -- North Bay's branch of the new Ontario Health Teams (OHT) is looking for people to join a new Patient and Family Advisory Committee to help improve health care in the region.

The Near North Health and Wellness co-chair, Jamie Lowery, said that around 50 organizations have shown interest in joining the OHT team locally, however, with this new committee that number would increase by at least 10.

"We want people who have had experiences with the health care system, which I think all of us have at some point. But we're really looking for people who can bring ideas, feedback, constructive feedback, and really help us collective to improve the health care system," said Lowery.

Adding that people with current experiences can add value to the committee.

"Oftentimes with some of these councils if it's an older experience we've made the adjustments. But certainly, people who have recent experiences can provide some insight that may not be available, readily available, for physicians, for organizations that can help us adjust our service," he said.

The OHT are groups that will eventually be replacing the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINS) across the province.

"Organizing the health care system by OHT's is game-changing, it will make the care focus on the patients," said Dr. Paul Preston, who also sits as a co-chair for Near North Health and Wellness OHT. "It will make it more organized and connected at the community level, which is the functional unit and everyone will be accountable for our own community."

Dr. Preston said that the OHT will be made of core councils with the Patient and Family Advisory Committee being one of them.

"The OHT at this early phase won't have its own board. It's really just a bunch of organizations and providers and people coming together, coming to the table to work on common issues for the community," he said. "So it's really, I use the metaphor, it's really a potluck at this stage. There's nobody governing a potluck, everybody just collaborates and corporates and brings what they can to the table."

Right now, the Near North Health and Wellness OHT are looking to add approximately 10 members to this new committee with applications due by Oct. 26. The overall goal is to have it up and running by the end of the year.

"We need the patient and family and caregivers voices at the table," said Dr. Preston.

"I think in all health care, often the patient and family are, even though we know what the diagnosis is, we know how to treat it clinically, but there's another part of the equation. How people feel about the care, how they access the care, so those insights are very, very important and ensures that we stay current and we really can make those improvements," said Lowery.