Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith is hopeful that Ontario’s plan to clear the backlog of around 206,000 people waiting for surgical procedures expands in his riding.
“As we start out, it’s a matter of incremental change,” he said.
The first of three phases introduced by Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones Monday morning will see surgical and diagnostic clinics in Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Windsor perform an additional 14,000 cataract operations a year. According to a news release by the province, that number represents around 25 percent of the province’s current waitlist.
According to the province’s plan, the next step will see the province expand the scope of community and surgical diagnostic centres. The focus will be on cataracts as well as MRI and CT imaging, colonoscopy, and endoscopy procedures. That is planned to begin at an unspecified time this year. The third step, if the legislation is passed, is slated to start next year and will see hip and knee replacements done at private clinics.
Smith added by using for-profit clinics, it will take a lot of the burden off of hospitals. “That’s a good thing because it creates a capacity throughout the entire system,” he said.
“It’s about how you, as an individual or as a family, receive that service,” responded Smith when asked if the province is moving towards a private healthcare system. He added there are private providers in the system that the province has worked with for “decades and decades” and reiterated the point made by the premier that you will “pay for these services with an OHIP card, not a credit card.”
Dr. Adil Shamji, Ontario Liberal Health critic, says Ford and Jones didn’t give enough details on how they will fund the clinics or give “assurances” about how the province’s new plan will be good for Ontario’s healthcare system. “There are too many details missing in this announcement, and the government’s track record inspires zero confidence for the delivery of safe, equitable, fair, and cost-free healthcare to Ontario’s patients.”
Smith pointed out that the facilities will face the same scrutiny when it comes to safety that hospitals do. “These are regulated facilities, just the same as any other healthcare provider that needs to meet the standards of safe care,” he said.
“All these facilities, whether they exist today or whether they’ll exist in the future, either do or will operate at a very, very high level of safety and care that puts the patient first,” said Smith.
Incoming Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles and the party’s health critic France Gelinas said people will be paying out of pocket and will be facing longer wait times in hospitals, all while his plan drives healthcare workers from our public system.
Smith said the private clinics involved now and in future phases will need to submit a staffing plan prior to being approved. In terms of hospital staff leaving to join a private clinic, Smith pointed out the province is in the process of recruiting and training nurses as well. “At the end of the day, the system as a whole needs to function well,” he said. “I think that’s an opportunity here to make sure it does that, to make sure it functions for all users.”