Doctors say government neglect, mismanagement to blame for sorry state of health care

A group that advocates for Ontario doctors says the provincial government has created a crisis in health care through years of neglect and mismanagement.

Province has spent too much on bureaucracy, says advocacy group Concerned Ontario Doctors

Dr. Kulvinder Gill, president of Concerned Ontario Doctors, says: 'Today, we are in the midst of the worst health care crisis Ontario has ever seen.' (CBC)

A group that advocates for Ontario doctors says the provincial government has created a crisis in health care through years of neglect and mismanagement.

The result has been a marked decline in the quality of patient care, Dr. Kulvinder Gill, president of Concerned Ontario Doctors, told reporters at Queen's Park.

"Today, we are in the midst of the worst health care crisis Ontario has ever seen," Gill said Tuesday.

"This did not happen overnight. It is the result of years of complete and utter neglect and gross mismanagement of our once great health care system." 
Concerned Ontario Doctors says physicians have entered a fifth year without a contract with the Ontario government. (CBC)

The organization is calling on opposition parties and political candidates, excluding the Liberals, to pledge to do the following:

  • Reduce bureaucracy to put patients first and to create a lean, efficient health care management system with oversight from the Ontario ombudsman and auditor-general.
  • Create a health care task force composed of frontline physicians, who have active practices in the community and knowledge of the problems in the system, to find solutions to the health care crisis that will enable the system to be sustainable.
  • Restore trust and respect between the province and physicians, while protecting doctors' free speech.
  • Address the problem of physician burnout and high suicide rates.
  • Conduct an independent forensic review of the Ontario Medical Association that would overseen by a retired Ontario appeal court or superior court judge.

Gill said Concerned Ontario Doctors want the province to get rid of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), agencies created by the provincial government to plan, co-ordinate, integrate and fund health services at a local level.

Gill accused the province of rationing health care in Ontario while expanding its bureaucracy. Spending on the LHINs has been "wasteful," she added.

Many doctors retiring early, closing clinics

Many doctors, in response to the health care crisis, have retired earlier than planned and closed their clinics, while some have left the province entirely, she said.

About a million people in Ontario are without family doctors and wait times for some specialists are now longer than three years. 
Many doctors, in response to the health care crisis, have retired earlier than planned and closed their clinics, while some have left the province entirely, the group says. (Goodluz/Shutterstock)

Gill said Ontario has become a "world leader" in health care bureaucracy, with provincial money being spent on hospital executives, CEOs and the local health integration networks.

"These are the only parts of our health care system that have consistently seen increases in funding and growth over the last decade," she said.

Many doctors believe the networks are not held accountable by the Ontario health ministry and fail to meet their mandate.

"Frontline physicians have been voiceless against all of this. Our government has attacked and vilified frontline physicians," she said.

Government says Ontario doctors well paid

When asked about the news conference, Ontario Health Minister Helena Jaczek said in an email that Ontario physicians are among the best paid in Canada and in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 
Ontario Health Minister Helena Jaczek says the average doctor in the province bills more than $348,000 a year. (Ousama Farag/CBC News)

"Ontario's doctors are essential to the delivery of a strong and sustainable health care sector," she said, adding the average doctor in Ontario bills over $348,000 a year. Specialists often bill hundreds of thousands more with nearly 500 billing more than $1 million more last year, she said.

"Ontario doctors are paid well because they do good, important work. That's why we're proposing an increase in the amount we pay them by $3 billion over the next four years — about 10 per cent over that time frame."

Province concerned about access, wait times

The government is concerned about improving access to care and reducing wait times, she added.

Its concern was reflected in its 2018 budget, which included major investments in hospitals, home care, mental health and additional staff to support seniors in long-term care, she said. 

"We've increased our investments in health care every year — our wait times are the best in Canada, from MRIs to CT scans, ultrasounds and overall specialist wait times. Our wait times for cataracts and knee replacements are half the OECD average, but we are also constantly working to deliver better results, build a more tailored health care system that is responding to each need."

Jaczek declined to comment on accusations that the province has spent too much on health care bureaucracy.

Doctors still without a contract with province

As for the Ontario Medical Association, the group alleged that it has "passively stood by" as the health care crisis has deepened and it has not spoken out against cuts to health care.

According to Gill, doctors pay mandatory dues to the OMA but the organization is not financially transparent. She said its ever growing bureaucracy, combined with a lack of accountability, is adding to the crisis because it has become a tool of government.

The OMA has been unavailable for comment so far.

The group said doctors have entered a fifth year without a contract with the Ontario government.

In a news release on Tuesday, the group said: "The ongoing abuse and vilification of physicians by Wynne's government has created a toxic environment with record-high physician burnout and suicide rates," the release reads.

"In 2018, Ontario already has one million patients without a family doctor, unprecedented emergency room gridlocks with stretchers with seniors endlessly lining hallway corridors, closure of operating rooms, cancellation of essential surgeries and wait times to see some specialists skyrocketing to more than three years," the website reads.