After a year of cuts to health care, patients and doctors are seeing the system deteriorate.
It has been more than a year since the government began cutting funding for physician services, and patients have yet to see any of the improvements to health care as promised by the Ministry of Health.
Last January the province stopped meaningfully engaging with doctors, who have been working without a contract for almost two years. Instead, the government moved forward with unilateral cuts totalling almost seven per cent. These are cuts to necessary medical services provided by physicians to patients, such as visits for seniors who have chronic conditions and tests for people recovering from addictions.
During this time we have heard from patients and doctors who have experienced increased wait-times for tests and procedures. They have also shared that across the province some medical clinics have closed, or reduced or laid off staff. Access to care is slowly being eroded.
In addition to the cuts, the government has made the decision to cap funds for necessary medical care. As a result, if the demand for care exceeds what the government is willing to pay for – which it already has – doctors are the ones who cover the difference.
This is simply not sustainable.
The Ontario government’s true commitment to health care was detailed again in its latest budget, which provides little hope for improvement to the system, as the investment announced falls well below what is needed to keep pace with population growth, demographic changes, and inflation.
The overall budget for physician services was increased by 1.25 per cent; this is not a “raise” for individual physicians, but rather funding that will cover only a fraction of the growth in demand on the system.
Communities across the province, including the Beach and East York, are growing. About 10 per cent of the population in this area is over the age of 65, many living with multiple chronic medical conditions. We are seeing the demand for care grow by more than double the rate the government is willing to fund. It appears MPP Arthur Potts believes that the need to provide additional support to people in the community should come at the expense of necessary medical care.
The reason MPPs of all political stripes are hearing from their constituents is because the government is threatening access to the quality, patient-focused care Ontarians need and expect.
The decisions Ontario makes today will impact patients’ access to quality care in the years to come. This is why it is so important that Ontario’s doctors – who are on the front line with patients every day – must be partners in the redesign of Ontario’s health care system. Right now we are not. This is a situation Ontarians should not allow.
In order to resolve these concerns, doctors have been asking for a binding dispute resolution mechanism to achieve a fair physician services agreement, but the government continues to reject this reasonable request.
So here we are, more than one year later, with the government still not working with doctors and the quality, patient-focused care Ontarians need and expect being threatening by continued cuts.
Ontario’s doctors put our patients first every day – it’s time for the government to do the same.