Patients are lost in our health care system

By MPP Toby Barrett

For way too long, Ontario patients and families have been getting lost in our health care system, falling through the cracks, and waiting too long for care. This obviously can have a negative impact on the wellbeing of those involved, as well as their loved ones.

The health care system is facing capacity pressures. It does not have the right mix of services, beds, or digital tools to be ready for a growing and rapidly-aging population – a population with more complex care needs. Problems range from hallway healthcare, to waitlists, to poor value for money, and to poor patient experience.

Essentially, Ontario’s health care system is on life-support. Patients are forgotten on wait lists. More than 1,000 patients are receiving care in hallways every day and the average wait time to access a bed in a long-term care home is 146 days. That’s a 300 per cent increase from five years ago.

Too much time and attention is spent propping up a fragmented system. And far too many people believe it is the patient’s or the family’s job to navigate this complicated system during what is already one of the most traumatic and stress-filled periods in their lives. 

Ontario currently has a large network of provincial and regional agencies, clinical oversight bodies and 1,800 health service provider organizations. This creates confusion for both patients and providers trying to navigate the maze.

The people of Ontario deserve a connected health care system that puts their needs first. At the same time, they deserve a system that is sustainable and accessible for all patients and their families, regardless of where you live, how much you make, or the kind of care you require.

As our government brings forward desperately needed and overdue improvements to health care, Ontarians will continue to access reliable service through OHIP. The goal is to improve the health system so that people have access to faster, better coordinated public health care where and when it is needed.

In the province of Ontario, care is not patient centered – care is system driven. And that’s the problem. In the past, government has not done enough to ensure the health care system is sustainable.

Our system is in need of dire change after years of government merely tinkering around the edges.

People feel their health care system and government are not working together. Over the last five years, Ontario has spent 30 per cent more than the Canadian average on administration. But people have not seen a 30 per cent improvement in care.

Right now care is fragmented, particularly at transition points, for example, from hospital to home care. Patients, families and caregivers experience frequent gaps in care, and have to reiterate their health concerns over and over again, because of a lack of digital tools and care continuity. One of the most frustrating aspects is that Ontario is home to some of the world’s best doctors, nurses, and health care teams. They work very hard to provide the best possible care in a publicly funded system.

And while universal access to publicly-funded health care is not up for debate, the structure and effectiveness of our system is now on the table for discussion. We need a patient-centered, well-coordinated publicly-funded health care system in Ontario.

Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk