Everyone deserves quality, reliable health care

By MPP Toby Barrett

Of all the services provided by the provincial level of government, health care consistently remains the number one priority for people in Ontario. Every family expects high quality health care to be there when they need it.

Health sector spending accounts for about 46 cents of every tax dollar allocated. But, despite billions from the McGuinty health tax, emergency room wait times are too long, too many families cannot find a doctor, and too many of us cannot get our loved ones into long-term care. If left unchecked, cost-drivers could push health care spending to 70 cents of every program dollar over the next 12 years.

Calls to my office suggest the public is ready for improvements to patient care as well as solutions for doctor shortages and lengthy wait times. Right now, the size and scope of our health system obscures the most important person – the patient. Forms, processes and long lines hold up folks in emergency departments and cancer care centres. And those in need of mental health services all too often get lost in the system.

As Ontario’s Official Opposition we know that change will be required to provide modern, sustainable care. As well, we are committed to increasing health care funding to the tune of $6.1 billion a year. We will introduce a series of patient-centred reforms that make the patient – not bureaucracies or administrators – the focus of our health care system.

Wait time guarantees for emergency room visits will be established and hospital CEOs will be held responsible for delivering on these guarantees. Further, we will improve health care for Ontario seniors with 40,000 long-term care beds. And we will give homecare users more dignity, more flexibility and more say in determining where they acquire these important services.

According to the Ontario College of Family Physicians, nearly one million people in Ontario do not have a family doctor. Nine in ten people across Ontario think they wait too long for a doctor appointment. At present, a third of Ontario’s medical school students leave the province after graduating.

As Opposition, we advocate bringing more doctors to communities that need them. We will do this by encouraging doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to work collaboratively. We will increase residency placements for medical students from Ontario who have training outside Canada and want to return home to practice. Locally, the proposal for a new Port Dover Health Centre – ideally building on the success of the Delhi Community Health Centre – will go a long way to attracting and retaining physicians and other health professionals.

For all we pay in taxes, we should receive the highest quality services in the country. In many cases, it’s not about more money but rather about rethinking and revitalizing the way our services work. Too often, the needs of today and tomorrow are being met with the ideas and the bureaucracy of yesterday.

Whether in the Ministry of Health, in hospitals, or in Community Care Access Centres for example, there are savings to be found at multiple levels – savings that can go towards helping patients. Our goal will be to reduce administration by 20 per cent and reinvest that money in nurses, doctors, health care technology, and other frontline care.

It’s time to bring healthcare services into the 21st century.