TORONTO, Jan 16 (Reuters) – Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, is planning to significantly expand the use of paramedics in health care, the premier said on Monday, in a bid to tackle bottlenecks and delays at the beleaguered hospital. and the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Doug Ford announced the planned expansion on Monday, saying: “This situation is no longer acceptable. … This is the best way to go to take the burden off the back of hospitals.”
The announcement comes as Ontario and other Canadian provinces are struggling to provide health care as hospital shortages and waiting lists for unnecessary procedures — which grew long during the pandemic — remain long.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston told Global News on Sunday that health care in Canada is “on the ropes.”
Canada’s previously funded public assistance system has been seen by some as a model system. But critics say the young age and the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic have made it even more difficult.
When asked about Ontario’s plans Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will “continue to monitor” that the Canada Health Act is being respected. Its principles include governance, universality and access to health care.
Ford and his ministers insisted that the county’s health insurance program would continue to provide health care.
But critics and public health advocates say expanding the use of private providers is a way to protect public health and threaten to kill the already shrinking health care workforce. Health sector job losses are the highest they have been in years.
The Ford government has said it has no plans to make health care decisions.
‘WHAT COULD BE GOOD’
Ontario plans to add 14,000 cataract surgeries a year, about 25% of the current waiting list, and invest C$18 million ($13.4 million) in existing private facilities to support imaging and other surgeries.
The government is also planning to introduce legislation early this year to increase the provision of services and other surgeries in these hospitals.
“We’re reorganizing … minor surgeries that are taking up 50% of hospitals and making people wait for major surgeries,” Ford said Monday.
Health Minister Sylvia Jones said patients can complain to the province if they feel they are not receiving public treatment at private hospitals.
Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said she is concerned that this has opened the door to further privatizing services and that it is “ridiculous” to say that they will not hire health workers in a dysfunctional government.
“This could kill the health care system in our region and our country, and we will deal with it in any way we can,” he said.
($1 = 1.3394 Canadian dollars)
Anna Mehler Paperny reports; Edited by Denny Thomas and Deepa Babington
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