Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath recently told the media she would not be revealing the NDP platform all at once, but the party web site does already contain a comprehensive platform.
The platform includes four major headings – Making Life Affordable; Creating and Protecting Jobs; Building Healthcare That Works For You; and Living Within Our Means.
The NDP is the only party to commit to taking on the dysfunctional home care system which the most conservative estimates suggest 30 per cent of costs are tied up with administration surrounding the competitive bidding. The NDP would conduct a review of home care with the goal of bringing back a publicly-owned and accountable system. They would also target funding to increase the supply of home care by a million hours within four years.
The NDP see fixing home care as part of unlocking the puzzle of patients stuck in hospital waiting for community-based care. They also plan to add long term care (LTC) beds to eliminate the 2,650 Ontarians presently on the wait list. A recent OHA survey did suggest there were alternate level of care patients waiting for home care, although the majority – 61 per cent – were waiting for LTC. Patients in ALC beds were also waiting for rehab, complex continuing care, palliative care, convalescent care, assisted living/supportive housing as well as placement in mental health care.
The NDP would also add 50 round-the-clock health care clinics to alleviate emergency wait times. The goal would be to increase alternative options to cut hospital emergency department wait times in half.
The NDP commits to bringing more health services back under public OHIP coverage, including the elimination of ambulance fees.
The platform includes a hard cap on CEO salaries, limiting compensation to twice the Premier’s salary. They make the point that it would still compensate CEOs at seven times the level of a nurse. The NDP would also crack down on the use of outside consultants.
An NDP government would also forgive student debt to new doctors willing to locate in underserved areas with the goal of adding 200 doctors over four years to these communities.
The party would make drug costs a priority in any negotiations with the Federal government around a new health accord.
The NDP would open up hospitals to the scrutiny of the ombudsman – something Andre Marin has been asking for in his annual reports.
Like the Tories the NDP would scrap the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), however, unlike the Tories, they pledge to replace them with some undetermined form of local decision-making.
No platform would be complete without a promise around prevention, and the NDP do that with a pledge to make mandatory physical education in post-secondary schools, ban junk food advertising to children and force large chain restaurants to label calorie counts.
A copy of part of my response to the NDP platform, that I posted on my Facebook wall at Every Patient Matters:
The promise of more home care stands out in a good way from what the other parties are offering.
But there is no mention of transparency, independent oversight of QUALITY or SAFETY, or improving public consultation. Would an NDP government repeal the hospital secrecy law? Would it give the Ombudsman oversight over hospital quality complaints? There’s nothing about any of this in their platform which is a big disappointment.
Why is their suggested cap for hospital CEO pay so high — over 400,000 a year? If we’re really strapped, maybe we should be tightening hospital belts more than that. A quarter of that amount could be used to hire a patient safety officer, who could report to an independent body about quality of care.
Look again at the NDP platform. The Ombudsman oversight they promise is only of hospital SPENDING, not QUALITY of care or PATIENT COMPLAINTS. This is less than what they advocated for in their own private member’s bill less than two months ago.
One of the roles of the NDP has been to put democratic issues on the political agenda. The NDP has taken a strong position on transparency and accountability during this past term. So why haven’t they included that in their platform? Perhaps there’s more to come?
It would be pretty difficult to separate health care spending from quality given its usually a yardstick the ombudsman uses. Looking at spending without any context would be pointless. There are other holes in the NDP platform, including any overall spending commitments, including trying to address the gap in mental health. But as they keep on saying, there is more to come.