A Wasted Chance to Transform Health in Ontario

As recently as one year ago, the chance to make meaningful transformation in Ontario seemed inevitable. There was a perfect storm of factors that we may not see again in our generation.

There was a need, a will and a cluster of talented, dedicated people and organizations who all wanted to work together to improve our health care system.

The needs were and are obvious.

We need to improve the Primary Care system to improve access, increase equity, expand multi-disciplinary team care and bring a sense of ‘system’ to the whole thing.

We need to improve hospital efficiency and we need to stop using the secondary and tertiary care systems where long-term, palliative and primary care are more appropriate.

We need to provide proper resources and structure to home care so that people don’t end up in hospital as a default.

We need to improve end of life care so that people have substitute decision makers and a plan in place before they get sick. We need to provide palliative care to everyone who would benefit, either in a hospice, in their own homes or in hospital.

We need to let people decide where they die and make sure they get the help they need to respect their wishes.

We need a seniors strategy……..well the list goes on and on.

The length of the list and the complexity of the problems did not seem insurmountable a year ago. People of good will were prepared to work with others to make things better.

We all accepted the principle that if we did what was right for the people, for the patients, we could improve things.

Nurses, Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, Hospitals and home and community care organizations were all committed to working together with Government, the Ministry of Health and other government sponsored organizations like Health Quality Ontario, Local Health Integrated Networks and Cancer Care Ontario.

And the Government had people in place with the knowledge and credibility to make major changes.

Starting with the Minister who is a doctor, a Rhodes Scholar and an Officer of the Order of Canada for his International work. We have not seen a more qualified Health Minister for many years. His Deputy is a famous cancer surgeon and one of the most respected hospital executives in Ontario. And they had the support of an enthusiastic Associate Minister and Parliamentary Assistants. There was and is an impressive array of Associate and Assistant Deputy Ministers to help in meaningful change.

So what did the Premier and Cabinet do with this rare confluence of need, will and talent?

They lost their nerve.   They decided that rather than make real change, they would save a little money by cutting doctor’s fees. That was their priority. Unbelievable.

A task that was better done by a junior accounting clerk with a red crayon and an adding machine has occupied the attention of the Ministry of Health for the past year.

Reform is abandoned. Hope for change is gone.

But they sure showed the doctors, didn’t they?

Scott Douglas Wooder, MD

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6 thoughts on “A Wasted Chance to Transform Health in Ontario”

  1. Why can’t the government work with us to implement these ideas? Would save the system a whole lot more money and let us make it sustainable as an equal-access public system for years to come.

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  2. Scott, you are right-on. Our politicians are inevitably involved with short-termism and are self-serving! Regrettably, as well, we must understand that they are, for the most part narcissists and having spent the province into near-bankruptcy will now exploit physicians with the least political power unless they put pressure on the politicians! The question is how best to accomplish that without abandoning our obligations to the sick! Like teachers we should “work to rule”, let week-end and evening coverage be hospital ERs and tell patients via social media how the chaos has been created. The federal govt should be asked to intervene in annual charges that are illegal under national healthcare etc. we should sue the provintial govt since what they are doing is illegal and immoral. However until we create a backlash nothing will be done

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  3. You are kidding me. This is the best response we have to being thrown to the wolves by this fraud of a government? We get everything we deserve. I have no sympathy for the medical profession when we are kicked in the teeth by the school yard bully and line up for more beatings. The time has come to show some solidarity and resolve for the first time in our lives. We need to act and do so in a unified manner. Only then will the bully show is some respect. I’ll tell you what I am doing. Any medical related donations are being stopped immediately. I am canceling the monthly automated payments I make to sick kids hospital. Let them get their funding from where it should come from ……. The government. I am no longer making any donations to any medical fundraising cause. Let the government fund them. There will no no more hospital committe pro bono work. Pay me or get lost. The free work is over. All the threats of MD’s leaving for another province…… The government would love that. Save your threats.

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