While knocking on doors during the 2014 election, I quickly learned that healthcare was a key concern in Beaches-East York. Toronto East General Hospital was scheduled for expansion, but provincial funding was jeopardized by the election. Residents did not want to see the loss of a much-needed renewal that would help TEGH modernize and better serve our community.
Since then, we have seen incredible changes at TEGH. Not only will the original funding for our local hospital soon be reinstated, but I was pleased to announce with the premier an additional $1.7 million for repairs at TEGH from the province’s Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund this past August.
I then helped the TEGH Foundation gain approval for a $50-million donation, thanks to the generosity of the Garron family, for the modernization and expansion of TEGH – now renamed Michael Garron Hospital.
MGH, the cornerstone of the new Toronto East Health Network, is but a shell without the hundreds of technicians, nurses, support staff and physicians who work there.
Our healthcare system, however, faces major challenges ahead. I have heard from many doctors who are concerned that they are facing reductions in compensation as we seek to modernize healthcare in our province. Our government and I have the greatest respect and appreciation for Ontario’s physicians. We know they work longer hours in busier conditions than in many jurisdictions across North America, and with our growing and aging population their challenges will continue. That’s why we are committed to ensuring our doctors continue to be the best paid in Canada.
However, the changing nature of healthcare – with an increased focus on preventative medicine, home and community care – dictates that we adjust our priorities to reflect new needs and realities. We are modernizing the system by shifting care away from institutions where possible, with a greater emphasis on patient outcomes at home or in their communities. To accomplish this we are relying on more personal support workers, home care nurses, and other community supports to keep patients in or closer to their homes as they recover or need assistance.
To make these investments it is essential that we stay within our budget for physician compensation. As we limit funding to some institutional programs, we are increasing funding to community care programs so that front-line workers who are no longer required in institutional care can be redeployed in community care programs. While the transition has at times been difficult, the goal continues to be achievable.
Concerning our doctors, our government is sticking to its commitment to increase (not cut) physician overall compensation by 1.25 per cent each year for the next three years. Unfortunately, the Ontario Medical Association has rejected our proposal.
As we continue to work toward a resolution, misleading ads that describe fictional cuts to healthcare do nothing to advance the cause of patients and their caregivers in our province. Our healthcare budget and how much we spend on physician compensation is growing every year.
We will continue to work toward resolving physicians’ concerns through negotiation, and will strive to address the challenges and opportunities facing our hospitals and healthcare providers.
I am convinced we are pursuing what’s best for our province, but as always, I encourage you to share your ideas and concerns with me and my office so we can continue this important conversation.