The regional health care system needs transformational change because the status quo is no longer sustainable.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford sent a New Year’s letter to all members of the Ontario Public Service recently, announcing his three main priorities for the year ahead. Ontario’s troubled health care system continues to be one of them. To this end, he appointed Christine Elliot as Minister of Health (MOH).
It’s no surprise that Elliot says she intends to transform the delivery of health care to make it more efficient for patients and taxpayers alike.
Health care spending this year will account for 38.7% of the provincial budget — which amounts to $61.3 billion of the $158.5 billion total. No other government department comes close to the health ministry in terms of costs.
After 15 years of Liberal government, Ontarians have arguably ended up with the worst of both worlds in health care.
While the Liberals drove Canada towards record deficits and debt and wasted billions on financial disasters like the eHealth and Orange air ambulance scandals, they also left a legacy of overcrowded hospitals and emergency rooms and patients being treated in hallways.
Throw in long waiting lists to see specialists, obtain an MRI, or get a loved one into a provincially-run nursing home, and Elliott is right: the system needs transformational change because the status quo is no longer sustainable.
The real problems within Canadian health care are well known.
For all the reforms attempted by provincial governments of all stripes over the years, the system still operates in silos that don’t communicate effectively. Too much money is spent on bureaucracy and consultants at the expense of patient care.
An example: fourteen Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) the Liberals created in 2007, staffed by political appointees responsible for $28.5 billion a year of health care spending, with the ostensible goal of breaking down the silos in health care.
Except, as Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk reported in 2015, “our audit found that the (health) ministry has not clearly defined the attributes of ‘an integrated health care system’, nor does it have any way to measure how effective LHINs are as planners, funders, and integrators of health care.”
CBC News reported last week that Premier Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives plan to scrap the LHINs.
That said, Ontarians need to know what replaces them because currently people have to go through the LHINs to access home care or land a spot in a provincially-run nursing home. In short, there’s no magic bullet for fixing health care.