A prescription for patient-centred health care

By MPP Toby Barrett

Health care is the most vital service for all Ontarians, but also the most costly.
The problems patients have in accessing health care today are not because of lack of money or shortfalls of our medical professionals. Rather, the problems stem from the way our health care system is organized.

In fact, Ontario’s health care system isn’t really a system at all. It’s a complicated series of loosely-connected sectors with bureaucracies running other bureaucracies, with nobody knowing how to make it work in a coordinated way for the benefit of patients. And for patients it can be complex, inefficient and difficult to navigate.

The combination of tweaks and wishful thinking proposed by government for this broken system is akin to using 2x4s to shore up a crumbling foundation – it might work in the short run, but it won’t fix the underlying problem.

Ontario needs to make difficult, fundamental reforms to improve public-sector performance. Nowhere is that more apparent than in health care, where we are still failing to meet patients’ needs despite a substantial increase in spending over the past 10 years. Last year, Ontario spent $47.3 billion on health care, a figure that has been rising around six per cent a year under the current government. This is not sustainable.

This increased spending has done nothing to change the layers of management and bureaucracy charged to run our health care system. For example, we have Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), hospitals, as well as the Ministry of Health itself.

We in the Official Opposition have proposed the elimination of both the LHINs and the CCACs as part of a new and completely different approach. Instead of complex layers of bureaucratic and political supervision over health care, we propose to let our existing local health care administrators and front-line health workers lead the system.

We need a more community-based, coordinated organizational structure that will take over the job of local health care planning, funding and performance. At the same time it will connect people with home care, community care and long-term care, and most importantly, integrate these services with acute care

Numerous studies show European countries, spending the same percentage of GDP as we do on health care, produce better service for patients. In fact, if Canadian heath care was as efficient as the best performing European systems, Canadians could save as much as 2.5 per cent of our GDP in health care costs – a savings of $13.4 billion in Ontario alone. For the sake of patients and taxpayers, we need to get more value for the billions of dollars we spend.

We need to change the balance of power in Ontario’s health care system, tilting it away from government bureaucrats toward patients and front-line professionals. In our proposed patient-centred funding model, the people who actually manage and deliver your health care today would run the system without costly and extraneous bureaucratic overlap.

Health care dollars must follow a patient as they travel through the health system and health funding must reflect a community’s health based needs.

Our goal – be smarter about how we spend health care dollars, and always put the patient first.