Ontario’s opposition parties are both saying that, if elected in October, they will scrap the existing regional health agencies known as Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), but neither has detailed a concrete alternative to replace them in order to oversee health care provincially.
What both the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) and New Democrats (NDP) appear to be offering voters heading into the provincial election is “a magic trick that would turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse through yet another round of health care restructuring. And years of turmoil in the health system is the last thing Ontarians need,” says Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Under the previous PC government which included the current leader of the PCs, Tim Hudak, health care restructuring “proved disastrous for Ontario patients. Funding was cut, hospitals were closed and merged, and they introduced compulsory contracting out for home care services that’s resulted in sharply higher costs and an exploited home care workforce whose low wages give providers their profit margins on the contracts,” says Hurley.
In their recently released policy platform, all the NDP are saying is that they will scrap the LHINs and replace them with “local decision-making.”
“Both parties need to come forward and say exactly what system they are proposing to replace the LHINs with,” says Hurley, particularly since a recent consultant’s report has proposed radical changes to replace the LHINs. This includes cutting staff at the ministry of health by 50 per cent, creating an executive committee of six regional super bosses to coordinate the system, and nixing the LHINs, Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), and existing hospitals, and replacing them with dozens of integrated health organizations to provide hospital, home care, primary care, and other services.
The PCs have already said that, as part of their plan, they would impose contract competition for support services in hospitals which would require a new bureaucracy to oversee contracts.
“While the Conservatives rail against the costs of the LHINs bureaucracy, their plan to force tendering for support services would drive up administration costs at the expense of front line care. Which is what’s happened in jurisdictions where compulsory tendering has been introduced: administration costs have risen as hospitals divert resources to a new and bloated bureaucracy. The bottom line is our hospital system, which is the most efficient in Canada, would be much less sustainable under a PC plan,” says Hurley.
For more information, please contact:
President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (OCHU/CUPE)