Michael Mantha’s News from the Park for 231013 – Doug Ford’s healthcare theatrics

I venture to say that many Ontarians are upset and disappointed at the numerous debacles and scandals emanating from the Ford government lately.

Right now, we are watching the simultaneous, dramatic housing development and Greenbelt sagas unfold. We have just seen the Premier’s eventual flip-flop on returning lands to the Greenbelt and the recent resignation of two prominent cabinet ministers and a ministry staffer. Talk about your political black eye.

You don’t have to scour the headlines looking for scandals, broken promises and the government’s attempt to distract public attention from embarrassing major stories about them. For example, to distract Ontarians from the Greenbelt scandal, Premier Ford made derisive comments about school board “indoctrinating” students working through LGBTQ issues regarding pronoun or name changes. Really, Mr. Ford? School boards indoctrinating kids? It’s a typical Doug Ford tactic.

For me, healthcare is the one area that will affect us all personally at some point. That is a major concern for Ontarians. At best, the Ford government’s attempts to improve healthcare have been feigned or thinly masked.

You will note that I say feigned attempts. I can’t help but think of a comic skit in which a giant, muscle-bound bruiser is seen struggling with all his might to lift an 800-pound barbell, only to have some scrawny old man come to clear the stage after the show and carry the barbell off in one hand. This is just another of Premier Ford’s tactics theatrically played out with his supporting cast of Health Ministers. To hear Doug Ford talk, you’d think he was trying to push a boulder up a mountainside, his face grimacing as he speaks to the media about their incredible improvements. Their tireless efforts are not any more genuine than the weight lifters.

Time and time again, Premier Ford has promised Ontarians that he is doing everything humanly possible to fix healthcare. He claims that the problem is not a lack of money but instead that funding needs to be reallocated to the front lines.

Well, I can see why he says reallocate money to frontlines. It is because it is the front lines where the government is getting clobbered! Doctors and nurses look haggard and bleary-eyed out front and center in the public eye and media viewfinder. People see and hear patients relegated to gurneys lining the hallways, storage rooms and even a few washrooms. But, the money needed in the background is not exactly surplus. It is needed for equipment, treatment and providing enough staff that the doctors and nurses don’t have to wear rollerskates to get around. All the Premier is doing is repurposing money, not replacing it.

Last month, Global News published an in-depth series about the Ministry Mandate Letters that Premier Ford sent to each Minister to lay out the government’s plans after the last election. In his letter to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Mr. Ford wrote, “Review the structure of healthcare oversight from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and its agencies to create a healthcare system that is patient and family-centred.”

The news reporter  went on to say that  “Weaved throughout the mandate letter to the health minister is a repeated theme of finding savings and efficiencies, where possible, and reinvesting the money into the front lines.” The Premier directed them to recreate a healthcare system that is “efficient, patient-focused, cutting edge, and world-class.” It seems to me that a simpler way for Mr. Ford to put it is that he wants to have his cake and eat it, too.

I have to ask the Premier how he performs such magic when the Financial Accountability Office reported that the government spent $7 billion less than planned this year, with $1.6 billion less in healthcare alone.

Here in the North, people have been franticly trying to find a family physician willing to add them to their roster. Hardly a week goes by without someone calling or writing our office, pleading my office to help them find a doctor. Current numbers show that one in eight Northern residents cannot access a family doctor. To compound the problem, the average age of family doctors practicing in Canada is 49. Retirement is on the horizon for many. How many times have Northerners heard the Premier and Health Minister sing their duet about how hard they are working to solve the problem and that they are sparing no expense to train more doctors and get them to stay and work in the North?

To actually solve the problem, the government needs to permanently commit to increasing the base funding to train new doctors by $4 million at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University.

Personally, I enjoy good theatre, but the Ford government’s act is getting old. I just find it infuriating to see and hear the theatrics of Premier Ford and his Ministers of Health as they try to convince us all that nothing is more important to them than the health of all citizens. But it seems the show never ends. Our healthcare system is falling prey to privatization, and people’s suffering will just get worse.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ola.org or by phone Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.       

Michael Mantha MPP/député       


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