Newmarket-Aurora MPP Dawn Gallagher Murphy spoke in support of the government’s new health plan as she begins her time in office.
The parliamentary assistant to the Ministry of Health said change is necessary for a system struggling under the burdens of worker retention and the pandemic. She highlighted the province’s Plan to Stay Open, which promises to expand 911 care models to divert more patients away from the ER and more quickly move hospital patients into long-term care homes, among other measures.
When asked about concerns from the likes of the Ontario Nurses' Association about public dollars going to more private health-care providers, Gallagher Murphy said the government has invested billions into the public system over the past year.
“We can no longer tolerate status quo. Status quo won’t get us to the point of having a health-care system that is focused, patient-centric,” she said. “We are looking at models of care to help remove some of the stress on emergency departments.”
The plan announced Aug. 18 includes more than $300 million in 2022-23 to address surgical backlogs. It also mentions seeking to increase OHIP-covered surgical procedures at “independent health facilities.” The government also highlighted efforts toward training 400 physician residents in rural and northern Ontario and plans to expedite the registration of doctors.
The province also plans to introduce legislation that could move patients to long-term care homes if their doctor says they no longer need treatment. The patients could be moved to a home with space available while they wait for their preferred home.
“Sometimes, the hospital is not really the right place for some of these patients,” Gallagher Murphy said, adding hospitals would be able to work with patients to get them to the right place.
The measures come with Ontario’s health-care system under pressure.
At an Ontario Medical Association briefing this week, emergency physician Dr. Andrew Petrosoniak said the system is in crisis. He said he is 99 per cent certain the situation will also be worse in the fall, with the flu season and another wave of COVID-19 expected.
“There’s not a single, obvious problem, that if we just fix it all, everything will just be better,” he said. "The reason the ED is in crisis is because the rest of the system is, too.”
The OMA spoke out in support of the government’s health plan announcement this week, which it said is aligned with its recommendations for systematic improvements.
But the Ontario Nurses’ Association was critical of the idea of more surgeries in private hospitals, as well as the potential for patients getting sent to long-term care homes outside their communities.
“This is a blatant move that will line the pockets of investors, nothing more,” ONA president Cathryn Hoy said. “The evidence is clear: health-care privatization provides worse health outcomes to our patients, and has much higher overhead costs which will be paid by taxpayers.”
The association has maintained calls to repeal Bill 124, which capped many public-sector wage increases at one per cent. Asked about repealing it, Gallagher Murphy said the government is investing plenty into staffing, citing a $5,000 retention payment going to nurses.
“We are doing tangible things to ensure we have a stable workforce,” she said, adding that they also hope to boost the process for international students and health workers.
After making her inaugural speech to the legislature last week, Gallagher Murphy said it has been a busy time for her in briefings with the ministry and getting around the community.
But she said her constituency office is up and running, and she welcomes anyone who would like to engage in conversation.
“I am truly honoured to be serving the communities of Newmarket-Aurora,” she said.
Her constituency office is at 16635 Yonge St. and can be contacted at 905-853-9889.