Ford Nation Tackles Health Care, Horwath Cries Wolf

A draft of the Ford government’s health care reform legislation has made its way into the hands of the opposition and media at Queen’s Park. This immediately had NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pulling the privatization alarm at Queen’s Park. She keeps that alarm handy and pulls it anytime government tinkers with health care.

With the unceremonious unveiling of the draft legislation to overhaul health delivery in the province, Health Minister Christine Elliot was forced into a hastily called press conference.

Minister Elliot pulled no punches when she spoke to media defending the government campaign commitment to put patients first. Elliot accused Horwath of crying wolf about privatization while Premier Ford’s staff handed out a list of Horwath’s previous accusations of privatization aimed at Liberals.

Elliot’s key message is that the government is committed to strengthening public health care; she repeated that line several times. At the same time, Elliot pointed out that our health care system is on life support and needs transformational change to find beds for 30,000 Ontarians waiting for long term care.

In a nutshell, the draft legislation creates one “Super Agency” swallowing up the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) that have long been in the sights of Ontario PC’s since being introduced by the McGuinty government.  Elliot spoke of a need to focus on patients, reduce health care bureaucracy and maintain the public health care system and OHIP.

Ontario currently spends approximately $60 billion on healthcare. It is the largest ministry and accounts for nearly 40% of the budget. Previous governments have tried to reign in expenses by freezing budgets or keeping them to the rate of inflation.

The Ford government made it clear that it was going to do things differently. One of their first acts was appointing Reuben Devlin as special advisor on healthcare. A former Ontario PC Party president, Dr Devlin was head of Humber River Hospital where he oversaw the closing of several smaller hospitals and construction of Canada’s first digital hospital costing over $1 billion. 

Pressure from doctors and nurses as well as support care workers have all added to the spiralling cost of providing health services to Ontarians. In addition, local communities have been clamouring for new facilities and improved services, further adding to the budget.

The Ford government made it clear that it was going to do things differently. One of their first acts was appointing Reuben Devlin as special advisor on healthcare. A former Ontario PC Party president, Dr Devlin was head of Humber River Hospital where he oversaw the closing of several smaller hospitals and construction of Canada’s first digital hospital costing over $1 billion.

Devlin was given the mandate to shake things up. Former Deputy Minister Bob Bell was sent into retirement and a number of other key bureaucrats have left knowing that their days were numbered when Devlin was appointed.

For too long healthcare has been seen as untouchable, any government that tampered with doctors, nurses or service delivery was risking a political firestorm.

With an ageing population creating more and more patients, the Ministry of Health cannot afford to become bloated, bureaucratic and tone deaf to its stakeholders and the government. Whether the Ford government or some other government, a shakeup or transformational change as Minister Elliot is calling it, is long overdue.

It’s health care, it’s Canada, it’s sacred, I get it. I think Ford Nation gets it too.  Before going to war with the Ford government, let’s see just what they plan to do.

2019-02-04T19:44:41+00:00

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