Time to put patients first in Ontario

After a year of cuts to health care, patients and doctors are seeing the system deteriorate.

It has been more than a year since the government began cutting funding for physician services, and patients have yet to see any of the improvements to health care as promised by the Ministry of Health.

Last January the province stopped meaningfully engaging with doctors, who have been working without a contract for almost two years. Instead, the government moved forward with unilateral cuts totalling almost seven per cent. These are cuts to necessary medical services provided by physicians to patients, such as visits for seniors who have chronic conditions and tests for people recovering from addictions.

During this time we have heard from patients and doctors who have experienced increased wait-times for tests and procedures. They have also shared that across the province some medical clinics have closed, or reduced or laid off staff. Access to care is slowly being eroded.

In addition to the cuts, the government has made the decision to cap funds for necessary medical care.  As a result, if the demand for care exceeds what the government is willing to pay for – which it already has – doctors are the ones who cover the difference.

This is simply not sustainable.

The Ontario government’s true commitment to health care was detailed again in its latest budget, which provides little hope for improvement to the system, as the investment announced falls well below what is needed to keep pace with population growth, demographic changes, and inflation.

The overall budget for physician services was increased by 1.25 per cent; this is not a “raise” for individual physicians, but rather funding that will cover only a fraction of the growth in demand on the system.

Communities across the province, including the Beach and East York, are growing. About 10 per cent of the population in this area is over the age of 65, many living with multiple chronic medical conditions. We are seeing the demand for care grow by more than double the rate the government is willing to fund. It appears MPP Arthur Potts believes that the need to provide additional support to people in the community should come at the expense of necessary medical care.

The reason MPPs of all political stripes are hearing from their constituents is because the government is threatening access to the quality, patient-focused care Ontarians need and expect.

The decisions Ontario makes today will impact patients’ access to quality care in the years to come. This is why it is so important that Ontario’s doctors – who are on the front line with patients every day – must be partners in the redesign of Ontario’s health care system. Right now we are not. This is a situation Ontarians should not allow.

In order to resolve these concerns, doctors have been asking for a binding dispute resolution mechanism to achieve a fair physician services agreement, but the government continues to reject this reasonable request.

So here we are, more than one year later, with the government still not working with doctors and the quality, patient-focused care Ontarians need and expect being threatening by continued cuts.

Ontario’s doctors put our patients first every day – it’s time for the government to do the same.

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I spend 6 months every winter in the US and that is the one thing that I hear all the time!! How wonderful it is to have our health care system we have in Ontario! Well I’m sorry to say that I see that health care system failing us the older I get! I love my doctor. She is always there for me when I need her! When I am in Ontario she makes sure that I am well cared for and makes sure that all the things I need taken care of are done in the six months I am at home! But I am not so naive not to realize that this is at her expense! Maybe not financially but at least emotionally! She has called me late at night to give me results that she knows I am worried about, and she has a young family herself so that is taking away from her family life to make that call to me!
People here in the states can see a specialist the same day as they call to make the appointment! I realize they pay for this privilege, but they don’t have the long waiting lists that we in Canada do! Are we prepared for the mass exodus of doctors and nurses that we saw in the 90s? The US loves to get our fully trained and licensed medical staff. They welcome them with open arms and an open pocket book! Wake up Canada! Ontario doctors put their patients first every day. It’s time we put our doctors and nurses first for a change!!

Mean while, a network of hospitals in Toronto has as a top priority, animal research and basic science. We are short of money. We need to talk about accountability. 1 billion of our taxes disappeared in eHealth Ontario and no one went to jail or paid back the money. Why?

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