Innovation seemed to be the word of the day as the government defended its response to the pressures facing the health-care system. The official opposition focused on those failings in the last question period before the house will rise briefly for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) next week.
Privatization of Ontario's Health System
Ontario NDP interim leader Peter Tabuns kicked off question period by asking Minister of Health Sylvia Jones if the government plans to privatize Ontario’s health-care system.
Jones did not provide a definitive answer to Tabun’s question but continued to use the word “innovation” to describe potential changes to health care in Ontario.
“Ontario has one of the strongest publicly funded health systems in the world,” Jones said. “What I referenced yesterday was innovation. We should not be afraid of innovation. We do it very well in the province of Ontario.”
When pressed even further by Tabuns about Ontarians potentially paying for health care, Jones categorically denied the possibility and said, “No, no no. OHIP cards are used in the province of Ontario to fund publicly funded health-care systems. That will continue under our watch.”
Toronto Centre NDP MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam carried the health care torch from Tabuns, pressing the government on staffing shortages in hospitals.
Jones admitted Ontario could do more to increase staffing levels in hospitals, but still defended the government’s overall handling of the health-care system.
“There is no doubt staffing challenges impact patient care,” Jones said. “We have done a lot already. We have 10,500 new health-care professionals working in the province of Ontario without the innovation and proactive approach we have taken as a government.”
Wong-Tam pressed even harder asking, “with respect to the question I had was really about what are you going to do in the next 24 hours?”
Jones defended the government by reiterating past support given to hospitals to ramp up surgeries. “That kind of innovation, those kinds of investments mean that we can deal with the backlog and get through the number of people who are waiting for those critical services,” Jones said.
NDP MPP for Thunder Bay-Superior North Lise Vaugeois asked the government why nurses from staffing agencies were being paid “two and sometimes three times” more than public-sector nurses to work in the same workplace.
Jones did not address the question directly, instead touting government programs placing students, medical residents, and internationally trained health-care workers “to where they are needed most critically.”
ODSP Payments Not So Green
Green Party leader Mike Schreiner used his time to ask the government why they are only increasing Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments by five per cent rather than doubling them as inflation reaches eight per cent.
Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy defended the government’s five per cent increase, adding that future increases are tied to inflation and that ODSP is, “just one part of a sweep of measures that we’ve taken to support the most vulnerable in Ontario.”
Bethlenfalvy went on to say that the government’s five per cent hike was the “biggest increase in over 10 years for ODSP.”
NDP MPP for Sudbury Jamie West questioned the government on the qualifications of inspectors currently working for the Technical Standards & Safety Authority as union workers part of OPSEU 546 remain on strike since July.
Kaleed Rasheed, Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery said the government won’t get involved in negotiations but that, “public safety in Ontario is not affected.”
TSSA inspectors are responsible for inspecting a range of equipment from amusement park rides to elevators, and even pipelines.
LTCs With No A/C Not Cool
NDP MPP for Niagara Falls Wayne Gates questioned the government on why it has not fulfilled its promise to ensure long-term care homes in the province provide air conditioning in every resident room by June 22.
House Leader and Long-Term Care Minster Paul Calandra deflected from answering the question directly and said instead that the NDP “actually voted against air conditioning in every room. They voted against adding 28,000 PSWs and health-care professionals in our long-term care.” Calandra continued and said, “that is the shameful record of the NDP.”