Ontario election 2014: Doctors want parties to debate health care

The Ontario Medical Association is calling on the province’s four political parties to make health care the No. 1 issue this election.
Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne has promised Ontario resident would have access to a primary care provider by 2018, PC Leader Tim Hudak will cut LHINs and the NDP's Andrea Horwath says she'll cut ER wait times. (Canadian Press)

The Ontario Medical Association is calling on the province’s four political parties to make health care the No. 1 issue this election.

"With more than 700,000 Ontarians without access to a primary care provider, we need meaningful debate from the leaders on their plans for improving timely access to healthcare," OMA president Dr. Ved Tandan said in a media release Friday. "The leaders' debate on June 3 is an important opportunity to explain their plans to Ontarians."

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario called the middle of an election campaign the perfect time to discuss health care.

"The health system in Ontario is at a critical juncture with a growing and aging population that will necessitate more services," the association’s CEO, Dr. Doris Grinspun, said in a media release.

The parties' promises on health care in this campaign have ranged to cutting emergency room wait times (NDP), eliminating the Local Health Integration Networks (PCs) and focusing on access to primacy care providers (Liberals).

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne on Friday promised Ontario residents would have access to a primary care provider by 2018 under a Liberal government.

Wynne said that fulfilling the primary-care guarantee would cost less than $20 million. She said the costs are covered within the fiscal framework of the 2014 budget, which was rejected by the NDP and PCs earlier this month.

If re-elected, Wynne has said she will reintroduce the budget.

Wynne previously said a Liberal government would increase the wages of personal support workers, give $6 million to paramedic services and $700 million to repair aging hospitals.

Hudak vows end of LHINs

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak vows to scrap Ontario's Local Health Integrated Networks and divert the savings to frontline employees, like nurses. The LHINs employ about 2,000 bureaucrats and administrators.

Earlier this week, Hudak said it's the "health bureaucrats" who stand to lose their jobs, not nurses.

"They don't actually spend any time with patients. They're health bureaucrats who spend time going from the inbox paper to the outbox," Hudak said in Woodstock last week.

Hudak claims 40 cents of every dollar that's supposed to go into home care goes into administration.

“If there's a choice between 2,000 health bureaucrats and hiring 2,000 more nurses and personal support workers, I'll take the nurses and the PSWs every day of the week,” Hudak said.

Horwath to cut ER wait times

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has unveiled a plan to cut ER wait times in half if her party wins the June 12 election.

An NDP government would hire 250 new nurse practitioners to work in emergency rooms, create 1,400 more long-term care beds and open 50 new 24-hour-a-day family health clinics, all in an effort to help shorten wait times in emergency rooms Horwath has promised.

“So that when you go in there with your child at ten o'clock at night, you can actually be seen by a nurse practitioner,” Horwath said. “It's going to help us reduce the pressure on ERs."

Members of the OMA want health care to be front and centre at the only televised leaders’ debate, scheduled for June 3.

"At the federal level and in Quebec, they hold two televised leaders' debates," said the Ontario Lung Association's Peter Glazier, who is also chair of Better Care Faster, a coalition of health-based organizations working to improve the quality and sustainability of the Ontario health-care system.

"If there's only one provincial debate in this election, and Ontarians don't get to hear how each party plans to make health care more accessible, coordinated and sustainable, then how can voters make an informed choice?"


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