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Ontario's promise of 'faster' and 'easier' healthcare draws mixed reviews

A plan by the provincial government to provide “faster” and “easier” healthcare is drawing both praise and criticism from industry leaders and political critics.

A plan by the provincial government to provide “faster” and “easier” healthcare is drawing both praise and criticism from industry leaders and political critics.

“The status quo is not working,” Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones said on Thursday, Feb. 2. 

 “Ontarians deserve to get care where and when they need it," she said. 

The announcement, which touts a three-pillared plan to improve health care, is essentially a rehash of previous funding pledges and promises. That includes initiatives to perform additional surgeries in private facilities, allowing pharmacists to prescribe certain medications, and recruiting and training new front-line workers.

“Our goal is to make health care more convenient for Ontarians by connecting you to care closer to home,” Jones added.

While nothing new was announced, the head of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) told CityNews that she is pleased with the steps being taken.

“We are very excited that the healthcare system and nursing is beginning to get the attention it deserves,” Dr. Claudette Holloway said. “We are excited that more seats will be added for nursing education and health-care education.”

The health critic of the New Democratic Party (NDP) praised certain elements of the plan, including the establishment of a new medical school in Brampton, but claims there is no immediate help coming for an overwhelmed health system.

“There is nothing in what she said today that will improve care for people who don’t have access to primary care, that will improve the care of people who wait way too long in their emergency room until they’re able to be seen, to help people who are so sick that they’re admitted into our hospitals into hallways and TV rooms and bathrooms,” said France Gélinas, NDP member of provincial parliament (MPP) for the riding of Nickel Belt.

Another point of contention is the Ontario government’s plan to appeal a court decision that struck down Bill 124, which is the controversial legislation that limits wage increases for public sector workers.

“We need to also look at compensation, fair compensation for nurses and we need to look at equitable workloads,” Holloway said.

The RNAO also expressed concern over the potential loss of doctors and nurses to the private sector as the province begins to shift some surgeries away from hospitals.

“We don’t want to hear anything about private health care, we want to advocate for our publicly-funded health system so that everyone has access to health care,” Holloway said. “We know there have been backlogs in various surgeries, but we want to make sure that people don’t have to pay out of pocket.”

In response to that concern, Jones repeated a previous promise that all surgeries that are contracted out will be covered by the province.

“We need to be clear: Ontarians will always access the health care they need with their OHIP card, never their credit card,” Jones said. “Under Premier Ford, that will never change.”


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