By MPP Toby Barrett
Given the extreme and unprecedented challenges faced by our health care system during COVID-19, Ontario has been forced to make some hard choices in order to protect the people’s health. Because of the nature of the pandemic and the realities that it brought, our government was required to introduce temporary measures to ensure continued operation of our health care sector for the broader health and safety of all.
We required all hospitals cease non-urgent and non-emergency procedures, which has resulted in deferral of some of these non-urgent, non-emergent procedures or surgeries. While this was not ideal, it was necessary in order to address the pressing priorities resulting from the pandemic.
Urgent and emergent care was always available to the people of Ontario throughout this pandemic. Despite challenges, we commend hospital management, doctors and nurses as they turned up everyday to take care of critical care patients who may have arrived at hospital due to a car accident, life-threatening illness or traumatic event. While not popular, it was imperative one of our key objectives throughout the pandemic was to preserve hospital capacity for all Ontarians.
Ontario never experienced a failure or collapse of our health care system in contrast to some other jurisdictions.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of our health care workers, Ontarians have confidence knowing their health care is in good hands. Thankfully, with Omicron receding, we are now able to begin reopening the province and start returning to normal. COVID-19 has been with us since early 2020 and has presented challenges to health care capacity both here and around the world. Health care systems have been under significant pressure in every jurisdiction as they work to respond. Addressing capacity limitations will be a top priority for many governments moving forward. To be frank, in 2018 our government inherited a fractured system that was in no way prepared to handle a pandemic.
As a result, ever since the beginning of the pandemic, our government has taken deliberate and dedicated action to ensure we have the health resources required to meet the health needs of people where and when they need them. Our government has consistently maintained we will spare no expense when it comes to providing Ontarians with access to the high-quality care they deserve.
Even before the pandemic, this government was hard at work making investments that hadn’t been made for 15 years. The long-standing commitment remains to provide modern, patient-centred and inclusive health care for all Ontarians.
Throughout the pandemic, our government has worked closely with Ontario Health and our health system partners to ensure people have access to the surgeries and the procedures they need. As mentioned, even during the height of COVID-19, Ontarians still could count on emergency and urgent surgeries being completed. By prioritizing urgent surgical patients through the pandemic, 99.3 per cent of the most urgent surgeries have been completed. Thanks to the ongoing efforts across all of our health care providers, as well as targeted government initiatives, 76 per cent of all patients who were waiting for surgeries between March 1, 2020, and March 1, 2022, had received the care they needed.
The fight isn’t over, but we’ve made progress while providing health care where and when it is needed. We will continue to make hard choices to give Ontarians the excellent health care system they deserve.
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk