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Ontario plans put it on collision course with doctors and hospitals.

TORONTO--Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the government plans to transform health care by emphasizing public health to prevent illness, focusing on home care rather than on hospital care, and increasing the role of pharmacists, therapists, nurses and nurse practitioners in dealing with patients.

Health and Long Term care Minister George Smitherman told reporters that Ontario will be reallocating its current $29-billion expenditure on health care, and that health care providers should not count on any large increases for this year.

At the same time, doctors and hospitals are waging intense lobbying battles to try to force the government to increase its spending on health care, where annual outlays have soared by almost $12-billion from the $17-billion health budget in 1995.

The hospitals told the legislature committee yesterday that they face a shortfall of $420-million for the current fiscal year, which ends March 31.

The Ontario Hospital Association told a legislature committee hearings submissions on the spring budget that there could be even more bed closings and longer waiting lists for diagnostic services and treatment if there is not a substantial increase in government funding.

President of the Ontario Medical Association Larry Erlick, advised that one of six physicians are planning to quit the profession or leave the province, according to a survey of OMA membership. They are dissatisfied with the payments they receive from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. Ontario doctors claims that Ontario physicians rank seventh in income compared with physicians in other provinces. The OMA is currently negotiating a contract for the province's 22,000 doctors and has warned it wants substantial increases in the levels of OHIP payments to catch up to doctors in other provinces.

Payments to physicians make up the third-costliest item in the government's overall budget this year, amounting to $6.8-billion, or 10.8 per cent of total spending on programs of $63-billion.
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Publication:Community Action
Date:Feb 16, 2004
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