On the campaign trail, Doug Ford promised a pledge that nearly all Ontarians would have access to a doctor if elected – a promise that has grown out of last year’s C.D. Howe report on “Accessing Ontarians’ Healthcare Needs.” In that report, Dr. Lindsay Meredith, the Canadian expert who led the research, cited “a lack of physicians in some parts of the province and a lack of access to non-emergency care.” While this has remained true for decades, in recent years it has become apparent that it is actually becoming more of a problem than ever.
While addressing his party’s electoral pledge, Ford charged that one of his first steps would be to rein in the cost of hospital admission and the number of days needed in hospital (a proposition that would be welcomed by many Ontario families). Ford also vowed to limit any increases in hospital access costs and negotiate annual increases in per-patient rates, both of which would be great steps for patients – but the focus of this platform is not the right one.
When Meredith and her colleagues analyzed the 2015 Health Services Accountability program data, they found that long wait times for non-emergency surgeries have actually increased. Most of this increase is attributed to longer wait times for ambulatory surgery.
In addition, for surgeries which require medical re-education, those waiting times have increased too. As Ontario nurses are the backbone of the province’s healthcare, Ontario patients expect physicians and other healthcare workers to protect the healthcare rights of the majority of Ontarians who don’t have medical training.
In practice, Ontario patients typically do not receive the level of care they’re entitled to by Ontario medical practitioners. In the 2013 Healthcare Needs Survey, Doug Ford told members of his party that Ontario patients have “lost the ability to choose their own doctors and we believe the C.D. Howe study underlines the urgent need to fix this.”
Ford’s solution to this is to abandon the right of patients to choose which doctors they see and hire new “experts” to oversee healthcare administration. This has been tried for years and failed miserably. It’s unconscionable to think that Ford will be any different.
This move would have disastrous implications for everyone in Ontario – health professionals, patients, and taxpayers. Ontario taxpayers will need to cover the unacceptably high price of healthcare workers union representatives (how about the Premier’s own office or the Liberal and NDP, who pay their legislative assistants through health funds?)
And should a doctor not have access to staff members, their patients will have to wait for every physician.
Ontario patients are entitled to (and demand) high-quality care, but Ontario’s healthcare union workers have fought tooth and nail to prevent health and safety improvements that would make that possible.
Without the flexibility to change the patient-provider relationship, Ontario doctors have turned Ontario hospitals into a “job bank” that has little to do with medicine and everything to do with securing high pay and benefits in the near future.
In her decade as a Toronto internist and faculty of medicine at U of T, Meredith found that access to a second doctor was inconsistent across hospitals. This is a problem that has been an ongoing issue in Ontario hospitals, regardless of political ideology. Patients have been fighting it long enough – it’s time to act on it.
Ontario patients are entitled to (and demand) high-quality care, but Ontario’s healthcare union workers have fought tooth and nail to prevent healthcare improvements that would make that possible.