Despite leaked draft legislation showing a drastically overhauled health-care system and what some believe could be the privatization of certain services, local MPP Andrea Khanjin says her constituents should not fret.
The Barrie-Innisfil MPP tells BarrieToday that the public health-care system will not be slashed in favour of privatization.
"Ontarians care whether they will have to pay for health-care services, or whether those with means can pay to skip the line," Khanjin said. "The answer is no. It is no today. And it will be no tomorrow. And it will be no the day after that. Rest assured that, under our government, Ontarians will continue to have access to reliable, public health care through OHIP."
The document in question suggests the province is also looking into making major changes to the local health integration network (LHIN), which the Liberals implemented in 2007, with the creation of a "super-agency" to oversee the health-care system alongside the minister.
While the leaked document has been passed off by the PCs as draft legislation in its early stages, it includes provisions to cut the number of LHINs from 14 down to five. The LHINs oversee nearly $30 billion in annual operating funding funneled from the health ministry to hospitals, long-term care homes and community health centres.
Patty Coates, secretery-treasurer on the Ontario Federation of Labour and a board member with the Ontario Health Coalition, said she expects the PC government to "spin it" and say that it's about efficiencies, but she believes privatization of the ever-growing long-term care sector, in particular, is clearly the goal.
"We fear that the Ford government is poised to privatize the new long-term care capacity, and this is not in the public interest," she said recently while presenting the coalition's report on the rise of violence in long-term care homes, which are under-staffed and have more residents displaying aggressive behaviors.
Coates says the system is strained, with people being moved from hospital care to long-term care beds, where the facilities are under-staffed and not adequately trained to care for people with aggressive behaviours. And there are more than 30,000 seniors on wait lists and even more people will be moving into long-term care in the coming years, she said.
Khanjin said the PC government is looking for solutions across the board.
"It’s clear that the previous (Liberal) government left a fractured health-care system that isn’t working for the people of Ontario and we’re working to fix it," Khanjin told BarrieToday. "Our government is consulting and listening to the professionals who work on the front lines of our health-care system, including our doctors, nurses and other health-care providers, as well as patients.
"We were elected to put the patient at the centre of a sustainable health-care system built for the future, and we will create a system that works for the people of Ontario," the MPP added.
Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey did not respond to a request for comment.
The state of long-term care, in particular, has been in the spotlight recently following a report from the Ontario Health Coalition, which says now is the time to invest in long-term care and more beds for seniors to get ahead on the situation. Their evidence-based models indicate the investments needed in health care to handle the aging population are "incremental and manageable."
"The evidence lays to waste any rhetorical attempts to paint health care as an insatiable 'Pac-Man' eating up the budget, an image created by pro-privatization forces for their own benefit," the report says. "While there is not the unbridled crisis that the public has been led to believe, nevertheless, our health-care system urgently needs to catch up on planning for the greying of our population."
The report also adds that people "have never been given an informed choice."
Khanjin says the provincial government remains focused on providing a "strong and sustainable" health-care system "that puts the needs of Ontario's patients first. Our plan will improve the health system so that people have access to faster, better co-ordinated public health care where they need it, when they need it," she added.
While Minister of Health Christine Elliott has said nothing contained in the leaked draft legislation has been approved, some, like Coates, believe otherwise and foresee what could be coming. If the document indicates the government's motives, she said it will make it much harder for people to receive care.
"It will be at the mercy of our not-for-profit care system," she said. "We rely on our medicare system. It is the basis of what Canada is and what Ontario is. ... We need a plan for better publicly funded health care.
"I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in an Ontario where some have access to good medical care and others don't," Coates added. "That's what happens in the States."