Will yet another health reorganization help patients?

By MPP Toby Barrett

Over recent months many have been made aware of concern published in our local media with respect to Norfolk General Hospital.

To quote a letter from an area physician: “Our hospital has historically been severely underfunded compared to comparable hospitals our size.” The doctor went on to say that despite all staff striving to do their best, without adequate funding, impacts are unavoidable, at the expense of care delivered to patients. “We feel that administration’s hands are tied as they have no funds whatsoever. Being a rural hospital also makes us much less visible to the LHIN.”

With little consultation, Premier Wynne and her government have passed legislation to reorganize LHINs (Local Health Integrated Networks). The Patients First Act will significantly impact the relationship between patients and their doctors. One constituent sent me five warnings about Bill 41 that should deeply concern patients:

  1. Access to your family doctor will be decided by government employees;
  2. Bureaucrats will be able to access your confidential health records;
  3. Funding will be taken away from hospitals and the front-line care provided by doctors and nurses to instead hire more bureaucrats;
  4. Provincial medical standards will be decided by bureaucrats and politicians instead of by medical experts;
  5. The government will have control over all aspects of your health care with more emphasis on saving money, instead of saving lives.

Patients are upset. Doctors are upset. My MPP colleagues are upset. Partly the focus is the waste of money and the waste in administration, with 39 per cent of health care dollars already going to bureaucracy.

We know LHINs are not integrating our health care system, as was the original purpose. Years ago I worked as a consultant with district health councils and in many ways, we failed back then too. The mandate then was coordination rather than integration, but that was not achieved either.

During recent debate of Bill 41, my colleague and Official Opposition Health Critic Jeff Yurek said: “A concern that should be brought up is the fact that wanting to integrate care – the Auditor General has noted that the LHINs have failed in their job to integrate care. In fact, if you look at the hierarchy of the Ministry of Health and bring out their list of ADMs (Assistant Deputy Ministers), they are just a mass of silos put together. I wish they could integrate their own level of bureaucracy before they try to re-create the system of a failed system. I think we’re at 18 ADMs now in the ministry, and it’s unfortunate that that continues to blossom and take power away from front-line workers.”

Another colleague of mine, MPP Lorne Coe, has extensive experience in the health care field and says he doesn’t believe the LHINs have the manpower or the experience to oversee such a massive transformation in how health care providers work together. “They don’t have the governance structures in place to take on hospitals, home care and community care and, in their spare time, link with public health.”

With the passage of Bill 41 last week, our next job is to make certain the newly-reorganized LHIN system will better assure resources for our hospitals, health professionals and above all, our patients.