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Parties urged to do more for healthcare

Natalie Mehra, the executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition and Charlie Couraneyea, the co-chair of the Durham Health Coalition, were at Lakeridge Health for a press conference urging the political parties to make healthcare a priority in this election. (Photo by Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express).

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It’s election season, and promises are a dime a dozen.

However, for the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), more needs to be done to ensure funding and resources are put in place to help Ontario’s beleaguered healthcare system after the June 7 election.

“Heading into the provincial election, we’re extremely concerned because there really is a crisis now in our hospitals and it needs to be addressed,” says Natalie Mehra, the OHC executive director. “We need to see from the politicians, some concrete commitments that would actually fix the problem.”

For the OHC, those commitments would come in the form of a serious influx of funding, in fact, almost a billion dollars. Mehra says that for nearly 40 years, successive governments have been downsizing Ontario hospitals, which has led to a crisis of overcrowding and wait times like no other jurisdiction in the country. The issue has also trickled into long-term care homes where, in Durham alone, over 10,000 people are on the waitlist for a long-term care bed.

“People really are on stretchers in hallways, in storage closets, in shower rooms, for days waiting for beds because all the beds are full,” she says. “This election should not be about lean and efficiencies and cuts and curtailing funding. Ontario’s hospitals are funded at the lowest rate in the country at this point.”

“We were in here over the Christmas holiday and we walked into emergency and there was no way we were going to be able to be seen, there was already over 100 people, it was standing room only,” says Charlie Couraneyea, the co-chair of the Durham Health Coalition.

The OHC is calling on each of the political parties to commit to a 5.3 per cent increase in funding. To date, each of the main political parties have put forward their plans to improve the healthcare system.

The Progressive Conservatives under Doug Ford have promised to improve the healthcare sector by finding existing funds in the system through efficiencies, while also promising to create 15,000 long-term care beds in the first five years and 30,000 over the next 10 years. However, Mehra says many of Ford’s plans for healthcare remain unclear.

“Doug Ford has sort of swung widely back and forth in terms of his promises on healthcare and we need to get some clarity about what he’s actually going to do when in office because right now, it’s not clear at all,” she says. “He’s talked about going after bureaucrats and CEOs salaries, very popular and it should happen because it’s wrong and public confidence needs to be restored, but it’s not enough money to actually get enough care.”

For the Liberals, they have come a bit closer to what the OHC is looking for, promising a 4.6 per cent increase in funding for hospitals this year. However, Mehra says the following year that funding would drop to 3.2 per cent.

“Which would not be enough for hospitals even to maintain existing services,” she says.

And while the NDP have agreed to meet the 5.2 per cent ask from the OHC, Mehra says there’s still too much uncertainty come election time.

“If we’re successful, what we’d like to see is actually all three parties meet our asks so it’s a guarantee no matter who gets into government.”