Tag Archives: Don Drummond

Owen Sound media insists down is really up

Ah, reporters.

We recently contacted a writer from the Owen Sound Sun Times regarding her story about the Drummond Commission recommendations. In it, reporter Tracey Richardson states:

“About 100 of those recommendations were devoted to the $47-billion health care industry, which eats up about 43% of the provincial budget and is growing.”

We pointed out that in the most recent budget health care made up 42 per cent of provincial program spending, and that it has recently been as much as 46 per cent of program spending (2010-11 budget).

How could this be construed as “growing” as a percentage of government spending? 42, after all, is less than 46.

Ms. Richardson replied to our e-mail complaint about the inaccuracy in her story. She said health care spending was somewhere between 42 and 43 per cent, depending on your “political leanings.” She didn’t offer to explain how this could be more than 46 per cent, but that we were free to write a letter to the editor if we had “strong opinions.”

Sorry Tracey – but you were plain wrong. You accepted Don Drummond’s word as fact, and evidently never looked at the actual provincial budget documents. When we attempted to correct your error, you suggested it was opinion.

For the record, this is what the provincial budgets actually forecast health care spending to be:

  • 2009-10: 43 per cent of program spending
  • 2010-11: 46 per cent of program spending
  • 2011-12: 42 per cent of program spending

In 2010-11 the actual spending on health care came in $454 million below what was forecast. Yes, below.

The government explained in last spring’s budget “health sector expense is projected to decrease by $454.0 million, primarily due to revised Electronic Health Record project plans, lower-than-expected uptake in vaccine and assistive devices programs, and the extended deadline for short-term stimulus projects.”

Ah, the facts. They have a way of messing up a pretty good story.

Oh, and the $47 billion health “industry?” It’s actually a lot bigger than that. Only about two-thirds of Ontario’s health care expenditures are public. The rest? You pay it out-of-pocket or through private insurance. Costs are rising there too, but Don Drummond has no recommendations on that front.

Drummond Report: Will Ontario health professionals again be Alberta Bound?

While the Drummond Commission talks about the need for recruitment and retention of health professionals and “leaders”, much of the rest of the Commission’s labour relations recommendations may send health professionals off in search of greener pastures.

Drummond avoids the question as to what happens when Ontario brings down the austerity hammer while other provinces, such as Alberta, are rushing to enhance their health systems? Simple logic would suggest that doctors, nurses, lab techs, therapists and other professionals in high demand may all be learning the lyrics to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Alberta Bound” real soon.

Is this where McGuinty really wants to go after creating HealthForce Ontario to plan HR needs?

Drummond says wage freezes are ineffective because of the catch-up that follows, but recommends the government provide a zero budget increase for wage costs, forcing employers to find efficiencies to offset any settlements above zero.

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Drummond Report: CAMH VP supports more access to gambling?

One has to wonder about what role Susan Pigott played on the Drummond Commission for Public Sector Reform.

Pigott is one of four appointed Commissioners.

Piggott’s day job is Vice-President Communications and Community Engagement at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

You would think, being one in four, her influence would have considerable impact on the final report. We read the Commission report expecting it would come out swinging in favour of good mental health and addictions policies.

And yet the Commission comes out squarely in favour of more access to gambling.

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Drummond Report: How to manufacture a crisis

Don Drummond certainly knows how to manufacture a crisis.

For several years now he has been telling us that public health care spending is out of control, and that if left unchecked, it would soon consume 70 per cent of the provincial budget. Since those projections, spending on health care has actually gone down as a share of provincial program spending, from 46 per cent to 42 per cent.

Oddly, despite a trend line going in the opposite direction, Drummond continues to maintain this forecast.

Now, as Commissioner for Public Service Reform, he is telling us that if we don’t enter into a period of extreme austerity, we will soon be the Greece of Canada.

Don’t break out the tzatziki sauce yet.

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Drummond Report: Will Dalton McGuinty really implement this mess?

Two days after the Drummond Report was publicly released it is fair to wonder what will actually be implemented for health care. After all, it is not Don Drummond running the province, but Dalton McGuinty.

McGuinty is the master of building firewalls between his policies and the decision-makers at Queen’s Park. For example, how many times did we hear McGuinty and his MPPs suggest unpopular health care decisions were not theirs, but those of the Local Health Integration Networks? Now Don Drummond is the latest lightening rod that separates a long list of nasty trial balloons from the politicians who would like to see how much austerity the public will accept.

The government treated the release of Drummond’s report much like it does the budget, locking up journalists and opposition politicians until the official release at 2:15 pm Wednesday. This is hardly standard protocol and suggests the government was taking the recommendations very seriously. Or was this just optics?

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Drummond Report: A surprise warning

Hidden among the many recommendations of the Drummond Commission is a surprise warning about the pitfalls of a Canada-European Union Free Trade Agreement.

Drummond points out that the $500 million in savings from the government’s generic drug pricing reforms could be wiped out if the province’s interests are not protected by the Harper government.

Harmonizing patent protection for brand-name drugs to European standards would keep generic drugs off the market for a longer time.

Drummond highlights the findings of a study done by Aidan Hollis (University of Calgary) and Paul Grootendorst (University of Toronto) who noted that if all three of the EU pharmaceutical intellectual property proposals are adopted, it will cost Ontarians up to $1.2 billion annually. Slightly less than half — $551 million, would be added cost to the government, whereas the rest would come out-of-pocket and from private employer health plans.

Drummond Report: Health care sectors get funding restraint… and a pony

Don Drummond wants to provide every health care provider with their own pony while the system gets squeezed another notch tighter.

In his report released this week, the Commissioner on Public Sector reform wants to implement everything from increased salaries for the CEOs of the Local Health Integration Networks to triple the per capita spending on public health.

All this is to take place while restraining health care spending increases to 2.5 per cent per year – about half the funding increase from 2011.

Where the savings come from with all this new investment is not clear, nor is there an explanation on how so much can be done with so little. In fact, there is very little costing associated with any of these recommendations.

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IMF cautions against severe austerity

Those working to preserve public services – including health care – may have found an unlikely ally in the IMF (International Monetary Fund).

After having pressed for severe cuts to public services in nations facing high public debt, the IMF is now cautioning that cutting too quickly may worsen the economic crisis.

This comes after weeks of dire predictions by Reform Commissioner Don Drummond, whose recommendations are due out today.

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McGuinty holds course on health care – LHINs to get more funding power

The new health care plan appears to be the old health care plan after all.

Yesterday the Minister of Health released Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care, a 14-page outline of the McGuinty government’s plan for its largest social program.

The media have focused on primary care being brought under the jurisdiction of the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), although it is not clear whether that is just the Family Health Teams (FHTs) or whether it applies to all primary care doctors.

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Drummond Commission: Ontario should look both ways before crossing the road

While we await release of the 400 or so recommendations of the Drummond Commission, its likely important to remember that Dwight Duncan is the finance minister of the province of Ontario, not Don Drummond.

Recent commentary has suggested the McGuinty government will likely use the Drummond Commission on public service reform as a means of lowering expectations before bringing in a budget that offers what the Premier described in last fall’s election as a more “steady hand.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be significant pain for health care – we are already witnessing eyebrow raising cuts, including Monday’s revelation that $66 million in research grants to hospitals and universities have been eliminated. The impact will be much larger given research grants are usually collaboratively funded between different levels of government and the private sector. The Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario – representing 24 teaching hospitals – estimates the real impact to be “potentially over $360 million.”

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