TORONTO - This week, the Federal government unveiled the minority Liberal cabinet. Jean-Yves Duclos takes on a new role as the Minister of Health. Now, the healthcare community awaits to see how campaign promises materialize into concrete policies to improve a battered healthcare system in the wake of Covid-19.
Whatever policies Canada adopts directly impacts Ontarians. With the provincial election less than eight months away, the pressure is on political leaders to address the need for improved healthcare in Ontario.
The Ontario Medical Association (OMA), which represents Ontario’s 43,000 physicians, support the call by Canada’s premiers for the federal government to increase its share of the Health Care Transfer funding from 22% up to 35%. In 2020-2021, Ottawa transferred $45.9 Billion to the provinces.
During the election campaign, the Liberals promised $25 billion in new healthcare funding, with strings attached. Part of that funding would be earmarked for healthcare worker hiring targets and wage increases for personal support workers.
While the appropriate healthcare funding is crucial to improving the overall system, the OMA highlights some of the pressing issues and outlines an action plan to improve the province’s health care system. As reported in Tuesday’s edition by Mariella Policheni, the OMA’s Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ Five-Point Plan for Better Health Care, reveals five key areas to fix and improve the system.
The report was prepared in consultation with more than 1,600 medical professionals including doctors, nurses, hospital representatives, stakeholders and patient advocacy groups. It also included feedback from nearly 8,000 people across the province.
Firstly, the Report stresses the need to reduce the backlog of services and reduce wait times. The OMA studied OHIP data between March 2020 to September 2021. Their analysis suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic created a backlog of nearly 20 million health services, which include doctors’ visits, diagnostic tests, treatments and surgeries. It is expected to take years to clear such a backlog.
Assuming doctors worked an additional 120% more than they did pre-pandemic, it would take roughly 30-months to clear the backlog of 52,492 people waiting for knee replacements and about 25-months to clear the 108,736 people waiting for cataract surgeries.
For the 22,308 people waiting for hip replacements and the 4,296 people waiting for heart bypass surgery, each would take about 19-months and 14-months respectively to clear the backlog. It would take nearly a full year, (11-months), to process all the 502,476 waiting for MRIs.
While Ontarians wait in pain and distress for the backlog to clear, the influx of new patients seeking mental health care continues to grow. It is for this reason that the OMA stresses the need to expand mental health and addiction services in the community as a second key area of focus.
The OMA recommendations include provincewide standards for equitable, timely and high-quality mental health and addiction services. They also reference expanding access to supports and resources and implementing targeted mental health supports, especially for front-line health care providers.
With a growing and aging population, more Ontarians will be reliant on health services and put more pressure on the system. To mitigate the burden on the system, the report recommends better investments in home care and community care. This could save space in hospital beds and reduce wait times for other patients waiting for essential treatments.
The report outlines other significant area of focus including measures to strengthen public health and pandemic preparedness and to ensure every patient has the appropriate team of health-care providers.
OMA CEO Allen O’Dette reiterated the need to fix the system including the need for increased spending through the Canada Health Transfer: “It requires collaboration among health providers, support from public, and political will, including significant investment from the federal government”.
P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter