Ontario’s healthcare crisis is beyond bandaids

By MPP Toby Barrett

Now, more than ever, we must address Ontario’s healthcare crisis to ensure families and seniors can rely on help in times of need.

Ontario’s universal public healthcare system was once our source of pride, but over the past 15 years we have seen the system pushed to its limit. We’ve all heard stories of cancelled surgery, overflowing ER waiting rooms, or patients lying on a gurney in a hallway for days while waiting for a bed.

During this winter’s Finance Committee Pre-Budget consultations, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) described hospitals accepting a zero per cent increase despite growing inflation, patient volumes and labour costs. Ontario’s hospitals embraced change; looked for new and unique ways of doing things and worked closely with partners in order to establish new models of care. But now, according to OHA President Anthony Dale, the system is again at a tipping point.

“After years of austerity, with so many efficiency gains having already been made and with the reality that there simply isn’t enough capacity in place outside the hospital setting, Ontario’s hospitals, the traditional safety net of the health care system, are themselves in need of significant investment.”

When it comes to wait times, Ontario has some of the longest – often four hours or longer. A lack of preventative medicine in the healthcare system is largely to blame. In 2016, 44 per cent of residents who visited an ER felt treatment could have been received in a clinic or elsewhere, had it been available. To see average wait times at your hospital visit http://www.ontariowaittimes.com/er/en/PublicMain.aspx.

I meet periodically with representatives from our local hospitals. For several years they have relayed their concerns with overcrowding, attributing this to the large number of Alternative Level of Care (ALC) patients. ALC patients are those whose health issues do not necessitate hospital stays but are admitted because no other appropriate level of care is available.

On top of this, 32,000 seniors are waiting for a long-term care bed in Ontario. This problem will only get worse. Over the next ten years, we must build 30,000 new long-term care beds – 15,000 of them in the first five years.

Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in Canada, yet there are only 19 hospitals in Ontario that provided advanced cardiac care.

“One thing you need to know is that cardiologists are seeing more patients with a higher burden of cardiac disease than ever before,” Dr. Jim Swan from the Ontario Association of Cardiologists told our Finance Committee.  “The cuts that this government made to cardiologists unilaterally between 2012 and 2015 have undermined the outpatient cardiac infrastructure that you as a government, the Liberal government, asked us to build.”

The chances of surviving a heart attack in our province should not depend on where you live. It is time new cardiac centres be built in underserviced areas of Ontario.

We must address this province-wide crisis that has been years in the making. The health of Ontarians is at risk. There are a few key things that can be done to return structure and pride to Ontario’s healthcare system, and not only does your family deserve this but so do the thousands of doctors, nurses and countless others who play a role in our well-being.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk