Over the past several weeks, the provincial government has made several announcements about funding for hospitals across Ontario: just in the last week alone, over $900-million worth. Those announcements however are not really targeting all the actual needs of the health care system.
In this area, $197,000 was ear-marked for Winchester District Memorial Hospital: over $700,000 for Cornwall Community Hospital: and nearly $2,000,000 for the Childrens Hospital of Eastern Ontario. That is a lot of money. But it only targets ‘bricks-and-mortar’ items such as building repair, renovation, or replacement. Larger infrastructure investments such as the $633-million already committed to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto targets buildings, and beds. However none of these infrastructure announcements, or reannouncements, deal with what happens once the repairs are made.
Ontarians do not need more bricks and mortar: we need medical people.
This region, like many rural areas in Ontario, still faces a doctor shortage. Attracting and retaining doctors to serve rural Ontario remains a challenge at best. One out-of-every 13 people in this province is without a family doctor. Essentially this comes down to more people using hospital emergency rooms as medical clinics. Some municipal governments have pieced together various plans to attract doctors, but clearly more is needed.
Meanwhile support programs and services remain understaffed, unable to meet steadily rising needs. From children’s mental health to therapy programs, all struggle to deal with long, and ever growing, wait lists. What was once a six-to-nine month waiting list for some programs, has grown to a two-plus year wait. It is getting to a point where some people will age-out of services before they make it off the wait list.
Building more hallways, even having them in a better state of repair, is not the way to fulfill Premier Ford’s pledge to end “hallway medicine”.
Properly funding medical support programs and services, along with developing a solid provincial strategy to recruit and retain doctors for rural Ontario will help clear those hallways.