Tory MPP Randy Hillier is the Rob Ford of rural Ontario. He often makes headlines for all the wrong reasons.
His hatred of unions seems to be trumping common sense these days. Hillier recently wrote an editorial in the local media aligning his views with those of Health Minister Deb Matthews. Whereas most MPPs would stand up for their local hospital, Hillier is supporting deep cuts to the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital most likely because it is the local unions that are raising the alarm. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with an election likely on the horizon for 2013.
Hillier has bought Matthew’s inaccurate assertion that hospital cuts simply represent a transfer of services to community-based providers. We see Matthews’ interest is saving her own skin amid the obvious effects of austerity on Ontario’s health care system, but what’s in it for Hillier?
Perhaps Hillier should have a conversation with his own caucus members. Last year fellow Tory MPP John O’Toole characterized the government’s “Home First” initiative as the “Home Alone” initiative during a visit by the Ontario Health Coalition. Have they had a last-minute conversion to the Liberal cause?
Cuts to the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital are very significant – the community will have 12 fewer beds, the day hospital will be reduced from five to three days a week, there will be a reduction of four hours per day at each of the emergency room sites, and staff reductions will impact everything from diagnostic imaging to support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Cuts to more than three physiotherapy positions means that residents who are eligible for public coverage will likely have to pay out-of-pocket for their rehab costs if they wish to access timely care. Mr. Hillier should be reminded that the last time the government licensed a OHIP community physiotherapy clinic was 1964. He should also take note of a recent survey done by these same community physiotherapy clinics that indicates 50 per cent of hospitals reduced or cut outpatient physiotherapy within the last two years.
Hillier says we have seen an improvement in home care. Last year the South East CCAC finished the year with a $300,000 deficit. With a four per cent increase this year, they might be able to break even doing about the same volumes as last year. That hardly instills confidence in its ability to pick up what pieces they can from the mess at Perth and Smiths Falls.
Let’s not also forget that we are also talking about apples and oranges. Fewer hours of emergency care or cuts to diagnostics are not going to be replaced by home care no matter what.
Politicians are always happy to see new bricks and mortar projects in their constituency, and no doubt he is very proud of the construction activity at Smiths Falls. Under the McGuinty government there seems to be a bottomless pit of cash for new hard infrastructure. However, he should realize that getting rehab from a brick could prove to be very difficult.
Hillier says the local unions are scaremongering, particularly around the possibility that the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital could become the Perth or Smiths Falls District Hospital.
Hillier should also have a conversation with the Mayor of Shelburne, Ontario. Each year his local hospital experienced cuts that led to the loss of one service after another. Eventually those services became so few that it became expedient to close the facility and tell everyone to go to the other remaining site of Headwaters Health Care in Orangeville. The distance between Orangeville and Shelburne is even greater than the distance between Perth and Smiths Falls.
Hillier may not be able to see the writing on the wall, but voters in his community may begin to wonder if they made the right choice in the last election.