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Hallway healthcare needs to go

Lance Goosen Cartoon

(Cartoon by Lance Goosen)

Over the past few years, the term “hallway healthcare” has become synonymous with Ontario’s struggling healthcare system. What began as a buzz word for politicians has now become accepted verbiage even for doctors, nurses and hospital administrators.

When the Ford government was given a majority win in the 2018 provincial election, one of the most significant pillars of its mandate was to eliminate “hallway healthcare” from Ontario.

The job is a tremendous challenge, and it’s not going to get any easier.

It would be simple to throw all the blame at the current government, but in reality, cracks in Ontario’s healthcare system began to show decades ago.

Yes, it’s true that Mike Harris and his Conservatives made deep cuts to healthcare by laying off nurses and closing hospitals, but the Jean Chretien-led Liberal government also had a role in the decline, as federal transfers to the provinces were cut by billions in the mid-1990s.

Under Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, funding slightly increased but was never  anywhere near what those in the healthcare system were calling for.

So while “hallway healthcare” started well before it became a hashtag on Twitter, it’s now up to the PCs to deal with.

Recent data shows some of Ontario’s largest hospitals are  operating at overcapacity almost every day, with Dr. Tony Stone, chief of staff at Lakeridge Health, calling the situation “lived experience.”

According to Stone, the main reason for this is the amount of patients who are waiting for a bed in a long-term care facility or for healthcare services that can be given to them in their homes.

The wait list for mental health services for children and youth has more than doubled since 2017.

The reality is the solution to “hallway healthcare” will not come from the province simply throwing money at the problem. It will take a collaborative effort from everyone in the healthcare sector.

Local efforts are underway. The Durham Ontario Health Team, comprised of a group of more than 15 healthcare organizations, was recently created with the goal of optimizing patient care and service delivery across the region.

While this may seem like a small step, the battle against Ontario’s “hallway healthcare” will truly be made up of these many steps, not just one, simple giant leap.