Tory health care white paper elicits a big ho-hum

If the Tories thought that yesterday’s new health care white paper was likely to change the channel on the byelection defeats, they likely woke up this morning disappointed.

Despite health care’s long standing ranking as the number one issue among Ontarians, there was little media coverage of the white paper.

Of those that did comment, most appear baffled by the plan.

Health Minister Deb Matthews wondered why the paper had been authored by deputy health critic Bill Walker, and not Christine Elliott, who has far more experience in the health care portfolio.

Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn took Hudak to task for misrepresenting the costs of the Local Health Integration Networks. The Tories had been stating the LHINs are wasting $250-$300 million dollars – a number that looks less impressive when it reflects all spending on the LHINs since 2006. Annual savings, provided they incurred absolutely no cost of reallocating functions around planning and accountability, would be a less impressive $70 million a year, or less than what it costs to run some of the smallest hospitals in the province.

Hudak maintains the work of the LHINs would instead be conducted by what Cohn refers to as “salt-of-the-earth locals, not those big bad bureaucrats from the LHINs.” The health system would rely on system planning conducted by volunteers.

An adjacent story in the Star suggests cutting the LHINs and the CCACs would cut 2,000 jobs.

Meanwhile the Ontario Health Coalition called the Tory plan “a recipe for privatization.” The Coalition picked up on language that suggests that hospitals would become “commissioning” bodies that would contract public health care.

The Ottawa Citizen ran a short Canadian Press story summarizing the paper, although links on the site took you to a video that underlines the fact that as junior health minister, Hudak helped to close down 28 hospitals under Mike Harris.

The Globe and Mail ignored the white paper, although health columnist Andre Picard’s column did specifically note that administration for Canadian health care ran at 3.5 per cent of health care spending compared to 30 per cent in the United States. Which, when you think about it, makes us wonder why the Tories are so obsessed with health care administration in the first place?

Intel put out a press release saying PC is not yet dead, but then we discovered they were talking about personal computers, not Tim Hudak and the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

To read our take on the white paper, click here.

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