Ottawa

Christine Elliott promises 'affordable' suggestions in Ontario patient ombudsman role

Christine Elliott is vowing that any solutions she puts forward to health care issues will be affordable ones when she becomes Ontario's first patient ombudsman in 2016.

Former PC deputy leader to begin new role in 2016

Christine Elliott, Ontario's first patient ombudsman, is vowing to offer "realistic and affordable" solutions to health care concerns in the province when her term begins in 2016. (Canadian Press)

Christine Elliott is promising to put forward "realistic and affordable" solutions to concerns involving the province's health care system when she begins her term as Ontario's first ever patient ombudsman next year.

Elliott, the former deputy Progressive Conservative leader who resigned as the MPP for Whitby-Oshawa in August after finishing second in the party's most recent leadership race, was appointed to the ombudsman role by the Liberal government earlier this month.

Her term officially begins on July 1, 2016.

'Gaps' in the system

"When I was an MPP, I routinely heard issues from patients and caregviers about some of the gaps that they saw in the system," Elliott told Robyn Bresnahan, the host of CBC's Ottawa Morning on Wednesday.

"So I'm very excited about having the opportunity to listen to patients and families and then make sure that the [Ministry of Health] hears those concerns."

As patient ombudsman, Elliott will deal with complaints from patients and their families who have trouble navigating the health care system, and also issue reports on government initiatives — like, for instance, the move to increasingly shift patient care away from hospitals and towards home and community-based care.

That shift, as well as the challenges facing people with mental health issues who try to navigate the health care system, are two of the major policy issues the ombudsman's office was designed to tackle, Elliott said Wednesday.

Not an independent officer

Unlike the auditor general, privacy commissioner and provincial ombudsman, however, the patient ombudsman position won't be an independent officer of the legislature.

Elliott will instead report to Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins — and although she once held the Liberals' feet to the fire as the PC's health critic, she said she expects the government will take her suggestions seriously.

"It's ultimately up to the minister of health and the government, of course, to choose whether they want to make those changes or not. But I do want to approach it in a constructive way, to suggest changes that will be realistic and affordable," Elliott said.

"I don't intend to suggest something that will be seen as being completely unaffordable and sort of pie-in-the-sky...for me to suggest things that are going to cost amounts of money that the government simply can't afford isn't going to do justice to patients and families."

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