Clear Promises on Key Health Issues Missing from Ontario Election

From the Ontario Health Coalition:
Huge Health Care Rally, September 13 at noon at the Ontario Legislature
All Political Parties Must Address Key Health Concerns

After two decades of health restructuring, access to public health care services in Ontario is suffering.  Acute and chronic care hospital beds have been cut in half. While home care has increased and more long-term care beds have opened, extreme levels of hospital overcrowding yield evidence that hospital bed cuts have gone too far.

“While promises to improve access to home care are welcome, all political parties’ platforms are lacking details on how the parties will deal with the severe shortfall of hospital beds across Ontario,” said Natalie Mehra, Ontario Health Coalition Director. “The McGuinty government deserves credit for the improvements they have made in access to family doctors, nurse-led clinics, community health centres and family health teams. They have also reduced wait times for a number of surgeries and treatments. But there is a severe shortage of acute care hospital beds, and access to longer-term care for seniors both in hospitals and in the community is poor and inequitable.”

“This election Ontarians need to push our political parties for clear commitments on the key health care issues,” she concluded. “Will they stop privatization and protect public non-profit health care? Will they commit to keeping small and rural hospitals’ acute care and emergency services open? Will they restore closed hospital beds and services and address the severe shortage of hospital beds? What concrete steps will they take to improve democratic governance and public accountability? And importantly, since they all want to download ever more patients out of hospital into home care, will they commit to establishing a stable public non-profit home care system, like every other province in Canada?”

Key Findings on Access to Care:

  • After two decades of hospital cuts, Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per population of any province in Canada.  In fact, Ontario is fourth from the bottom of all industrialized countries in numbers of hospital beds per population, followed only by Turkey, Chile and Mexico.
  • 18,500 hospital beds have been cut since 1990.
  • Ontario’s hospital occupancy rate is now 98%, far above occupancy rates in the rest of the industrialized world.  Bed shortages have contributed to ER backlogs, cancelled surgeries, high infection rates, and longer waits for care.
  • More than 23,900 people are waiting for placement in a long term care home. New beds are needed in public and non-profit long-term care homes and minimum care standards are needed to ensure adequate care levels.
  • More than 10,000 people are on wait lists for home care. Ontario has the most privatized home care system in the country and is the only province that runs home care entirely through a destabilizing competitive bidding system.
  • Access to front-line medicine (nurse-led clinics, community health centres, nurse practitioners, family doctors, and family health teams) has improved. Continued progress is needed, particularly in underserved areas.
  • Wait times for some treatments and surgeries have improved.
  • Democratic governance of health care institutions and services is being eroded.

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