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Whether it is the Ontario Health Coalition, the Progressive Conservative Party, or the New Democratic Party, everyone seems in agreement that the provincial health-care system is not meeting expectations.

Since taking office last June, the Ford government has appointed the Premier's Council on Improving Health Care and Ending Hallway Medicine.

Shortly thereafter, the government announced the potential amalgamation of 12 Local Health Integrated Networks (LHINs) into five regional oversight groups.

And last Thursday, the first report of the Council on Improving Health Care was delivered. By Friday, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath accused the government of looking to privatize more parts of health care, which subsequently was rejected by Health minister Christine Elliott.

The transformative strategy proposed in the bill entitled “Health System Efficiency Act” remains unknown. It is not clear how the backlog of hallway patients is going to be lessened nor do we know if more long-term beds in nursing homes will be built or acute wings of hospitals will be expanded.

It is suggested that Ontario needs 8,000 more hospital beds in the next decade but only 1,700 are planned. The report also identifies the need for 41,000 additional long-term care spaces, which the health ministry projects are needed.

It is not known if Ontario will increase the nurse-to-patient ratio for hospitals, which is the lowest in Canada and in much of the western world.

Here in Rainy River District, hallway medicine at La Verendrye Hospital exists because the Rainycrest Long-Term Care Home has not been able to admit residents for more than a year. It is an issue of staffing and funding for residents' care.

The Health System Efficiency Act is looking at technology and the potential to centralize delivery of care, along with 70 “integrated care-delivery systems” that will oversee a broad range of service providers.

The government may believe its system will deliver more by doing so efficiently while reducing health costs.

The proposed legislation, however, still doesn't address the shortage of beds, workers, and inadequate funding to hospitals and long-term care facilities.

—Jim Cumming

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