Michael Mantha’s News from the Park

The tick-tock of Ontario’s healthcare woes are getting to the Premier

December 8, 2023

Friends of mine have a beautiful grandfather clock in their living room. It’s a genuine heirloom antique that works with weights, pulleys and a pendulum. I often enjoy their company, sipping coffee beside the clock, speaking in quieter tones so we can enjoy its perfect pendulous tick-tock rhythm. It is a calming sound, reminding me that we all need to enjoy what we have. It helps me remember that we have the time and ability to make the world a better place, even if it is just our little world.

However, I have also seen many individuals who hear that same tick-tock, but it has the opposite effect on them. Some see time turn from friend into foe. The rhythmic tick-tock tones turn to dance-beat drums, and the chimes become blaring warning bells.

From my assigned seat in the Legislature, I clearly see the latter situation playing out across the aisle for Premier Ford. As I sit perched in the Legislature, I have watched Mr. Ford’s demeanour, words, decisions, and actions change. There is no question that he now fears time more each day. However, this change is completely understandable, given the promises he made when first elected in 2018. (A good summary of Premier Ford’s promises can be found in the June 7, 2018, edition of Mcleans Magazine Here are all of Doug Ford’s promises in Ontario election 2018.)

Just this week, the Auditor General (AG) released a scathing report, top to bottom, criticizing many performance issues of the Conservative government this year. So, now that the rhythm of Mr. Ford’s clock is out of sync with his plans, the tick-tocking is putting Doug Ford into full-blown panic mode. No doubt he wishes he could turn back the hands of time. Just look at how he is flip-flopping his policies and some legislation, firing cabinet ministers who are caught doing something underhanded,  making accusations and bickering with party leaders over petty and even personal issues and generally just losing his cool in the Legislature and with the media.

The promise to fix healthcare is just one of many poor performance issues the AG critiqued harshly. One of the Premier’s most important promises was that he would fix our public healthcare system. He committed the Conservatives to ending hallway medicine. Speaking directly to Northerners, he promised to get more doctors to move North to open practices.

The AG’s report emphasized the incredible damage the Conservatives did by passing Bill 124, which limited wage increases for public sector workers, including nurses, to one percent for three years. This decision created a staffing crisis in healthcare. Ontario was already many thousands of nurses short to fill the jobs. In protest, nurses left the province in droves to work elsewhere or even left the profession entirely because of low pay, being forced to work weeks on end without time off. They could no longer bear the impossible patient load and meet professional nursing standards. Depression and burnout became rampant.

The Ford government tried to rectify the problem by promoting the creation of for-profit staffing agencies for healthcare workers. This just made a bad situation worse. Nurses left the employ of publicly funded hospitals that paid between $35 – $50 per hour and were hired by agencies that allowed them to pick and choose where and when they worked for $75 or more per hour. This creates situations in which hospital-employed nurses receive lower wages and possibly are assigned less desirable jobs/shifts, working side by side with agency nurses who are paid twice as much per hour working the same.

The December 6 edition of  ElliotLakeToday.com reported, “Staffing shortages are particularly acute in the North, where hospitals have to rely more on agency nurses, paying about three times the cost of staff nurses, including profit margins for the companies, in addition to travel costs.”

The AG also pointed out that after patients have been triaged in hospital emergency departments (ED), they can now expect to wait 30 minutes LONGER to see an actual doctor than they would have 10 years ago.

On top of waiting longer for treatment, under the watch of the Conservatives, Ontarians are seeing more and more ED closures due to a lack of staffing. ElliotLakeToday.com also reported, “While unplanned ED closures were very rare before 2019-20, the auditor tracked over 200 of them by June 2023, by which point the province had not yet made a comprehensive plan to prevent them.” Algoma-Manitoulin has had its share of ED closures and near closures. Northern statistics also show that between July 2022 and September 2023, 10 hospitals were forced to close their obstetrics services.

It seems clear that Premier Ford’s promises were all for show. He is not delivering on his commitment. He pulled off a second term in the 2022 election, but now he hears the clock ticking. While Ford saw time as a friend in 2018, it is now more than apparent that he sees time as his great foe because his government has not devised a comprehensive or implemented plan to fix healthcare. Instead, he has just made a bad situation much worse.

To Premier Ford, I offer the words of poetry and prose writer John Donne, “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

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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