The McGuinty Liberals released their long-awaited campaign platform on Labour Day, focussing on education promises while mostly extolling the virtues of their health care record.
However, when it comes to health care, the Liberals are not shy about reminding voters of what happened under the last PC government: “Ontario surgical wait-times used to be the longest in Canada,” the platform states. “The last PC government closed 28 hospitals and fired 6,200 nurses. Many Ontarians didn’t have a family doctor.”
The Liberals are promising to “keep seniors out of emergency rooms and hospital beds by keeping them healthy, in their homes and with loved ones.” The platform includes three million new hours of home care and $60 million to increase house calls by doctors and other health professionals. They also plan to provide “Health Care Coordinators” who will “facilitate care between specialists and family doctors, hospitals and the community to help seniors who’ve been hospitalized within the previous 12 months.” The platform also includes tax credits up to $1,500 to renovate homes to make them more accessible for the frail and elderly, protect jobs for up to eight weeks if an individual should need to provide family caregiver leave, and provide money for research into Alzheimers and dementia.
They say they are “redesigning Ontario’s primary care and homecare system,” although it is not clear what that means.
The Liberals may have noticed our summer television campaign as they remembered to add to their promises the need to train more doctors, nurses, and health professionals.
No specific targets are mentioned.
Every person in the province will have access to a personalized on-line Cancer Risk Profile which uses your medical and family history to measure the risk of cancer. The system promises to match people to screening programs and prevention supports, such as genetic testing for high-risk people.
The Liberals will also create a Council on Childhood Obesity whose goal will be a 20 per cent reduction of the childhood obesity rate within five years. Part of the plan will be a health snack program in schools. They also plan to use tax credits towards children’s activities.
Given the attention to mental health in recent years, it is disappointing to see no more than the existing status quo which will focus only on children’s mental health over the next three years. The present mental health strategy lacks any longer term goals despite earlier promises of a 10-year strategy. Ontario remains an embarrassment on mental health. Mental Health makes up 5.4 cents of the health care dollar, well below the 8 cents recommended by the World Health Organization.
The Liberal platform doesn’t make any funding projections for health care, although the auditor’s pre-election report confirmed their target of 3.6 per cent per year over the next three years, more than the Tories promise of 3 per cent annually, but considerably less than the pattern set over the last eight years.
The platform is also silent on the future of the Local Health Integration Networks, which the NDP plan to replace and the PCs plan to cut.
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