Health-care promises ignore 'dangerous' issues, west Ottawa voters say

Promising to abolish "hallway medicine" has become a common slogan among candidates during this year's Ontario election campaign, but some Ottawa voters want to know what else politicians will do to protect their health.

Residents of Ottawa West-Nepean call for better access to home care, family doctors

Cleo Mavriplis, a family physician with elderly patients, says the government needs to make hard decisions to improve the health-care system. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Abolishing "hallway medicine" — the increasingly common sight of patients awaiting treatment in the corridors of the province's overcrowded hospitals — has become a popular promise among candidates during this year's Ontario election campaign.

But some Ottawa voters want to know what else politicians will do to protect their health.

Certainly, hospital overcrowding is a major issue. But voters in Ottawa West–Nepean, including Dr. Cleo Mavriplis, say parties looking for solutions to health-care problems need to look beyond the emergency room to how patients access home care and family physicians. 

"Home care is really, really lacking. Seriously," said Mavriplis, a family doctor who works with the elderly. "It's dangerous."

Mavriplis pointed to an issue that's come up before: patients come out of hospital following treatments without any support from nurses.

"It's cheaper to keep someone at home. Much cheaper than keeping them in hospital," she said. "But I was speaking to one of my colleagues who works in geriatrics and they're afraid to let people go because by the time they leave the hospital, the care isn't always available."

The CBC Street Talk team caught up with people in Carlingwood, Bayshore, Crystal Beach and Nepean. 2:07

AG report sparks changes

In 2016, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk's report into the home-care system highlighted similar shortcomings. 

She found people with complex needs weren't getting the care they needed within the mandated 24 hours. 

The report studied more than a dozen Community Care Access Centres, a system that was later dissolved in favour of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), in the 2013-2014 fiscal year and found 47 per cent of patients were not seen within a day of being discharged. 

Last year, the Champlain LHIN said the wait list for nursing help at home shrank significantly in Ottawa thanks to a boost in provincial funding. 

In their campaign platforms, the NDP promises to immediately increase funding for home care by $300 million and the Liberals pledge a boost of $650 million over three years. The PC plan does not specifically include the words "home care."

Government must make 'hard choices' 

For Alice Daniels in nearby Kanata–Carleton, those changes can't come soon enough.

"I was only there for one day after a hip operation," she said. "I live alone. They couldn't even send a nurse home to help me."

I'm afraid for my mother, the kind of care she's going to get.- Dr. Cleo Mavriplis

Mavriplis said fixing the system will take money and, perhaps, some politically unpopular decisions. 

"Maybe we need more guidelines as to when you order expensive tests. Not everybody can have the expensive tests they want," she said.

"They're going to have to sit down and make some hard choices, because I'm afraid. I'm afraid for my mother, the kind of care she's going to get."

With her daughter Emma in her arms, Erin Gregory said she's considering a number of issues before deciding how to cast her ballot. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Access to family doctors another concern

Farther west in the riding, Crystal Beach resident Erin Gregory said she's never had a problem with long hospital wait times, but she does see another health-care issue. 

"I would like to see, obviously, more funding if possible, to get more doctors," she said. "the level of difficulty people have, finding family doctors, that's kind of ridiculous."

Having to rely on walk-in clinics is a real problem, Gregory said. 

"At times it's just easier to go to the hospital to get what you need and that ends up crowding emergency rooms with people who have the flu."

Like many in the riding, Gregory said she's been struggling with the decision she'll make on voting day.