The Ford Conservatives’ latest restructuring plan will see increased chaos and confusion that will reduce the quality of care in this province, and ultimately punish municipal governments who are already struggling to provide quality health services in their regions, says Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario.
While the long-term health plan presented to Ontarians in the 2019 provincial budget lacked specific details on how restructuring would unfold over the next few years, details are starting to emerge. After amalgamating Local Health Integration Networks into 10 mega-health units and cutting the budget by $10 million by 2020, the Ford Conservatives have blind-sided paramedics, public health workers, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Association of Paramedic Chiefs, and Ontario’s Medical Officers of Health by proposing another detail-free restructuring plan.
“The health restructuring plan lacks transparency and omits any details on how amalgamations will affect current funding arrangements between the province, municipalities and hospitals,” says Hahn. “Ontario families deserve to know exactly how cutting administration and funding will improve the important public health and paramedic services they rely on.”
Patient care in small and rural communities is likely to suffer the most, as local public health administrators will lose the direct influence they require to address any gaps in local services. Paramedic services will have further to travel to provide care. As well, the downloading of services to municipalities already strained by shrinking budgets will cause further confusion as cities and towns across the province attempt to draft annual budgets without any details on how restructuring will affect funding.
News suggesting that 35 public health agencies will be reduced to 10 and rumours that 52 ambulance services will be reduced to 10 across the province illustrates that this government has no interest in offering the people of Ontario thoughtful health policy and planning.
“No one asked for these changes and we were never consulted,” says Jason Fraser, Chair of the CUPE Ambulance Committee of Ontario. “Our number one goal is to ensure that there are enough ambulances on the road to answer calls in a timely manner, and given that call volumes are already escalating at a faster rate than the increase in ambulances and staff, expanding coverage areas through restructuring will potentially only make the situation worse.”
The restructuring process will likely take years to enact, and with no clear plan in front of them, the next few years will see massive upheaval as public health units, paramedic services, hospitals, and administrators try to continue to provide care while remaining in the dark over how planned amalgamations will improve health care in Ontario.
Doug Ford never campaigned on these suggested mergers and has said that ‘nothing is set in stone,’ which is why CUPE Ontario will continue to join with sector partners and allies and use facts and information to publicly expose the negative effects of a health restructuring plan that is designed to leave working families in the dark.