Health Minister Christine Elliott is set to deliver the Progressive Conservatives’ prescription for what ails the province’s medicare system.
After weeks of embarrassing leaks — including revelations in the Star about a new health “super agency” and the opposition NDP’s unauthorized release of a draft government bill — Elliott will table legislation on Tuesday.
“There’s no real surprise in the sense that I’ve said from the beginning that we need transformational change in health care in Ontario,” the minister told reporters Monday at Queen’s Park.
“We have some significant problems that we’re dealing with when we have over 30,000 people who are waiting for long-term care beds,” said Elliott.
“We have 1,200 people every day in hospitals across Ontario who are receiving health care in hallways and storage rooms; and the wait-list for mental health and addictions is way too long,” she said.
Confirming what the Star first reported on Jan. 17, Elliott said as part of the restructuring there would be a new “super agency” overseeing how health services are delivered.
“What we really need to do is focus our health-care system on the patient. That’s what the centre of all of this is about — to make sure that patients’ needs are considered and thought of first and foremost.”
The minister emphasized that the head of the new super agency would not be a patronage appointment.
“We are thinking about the people that we are going to be appointing to the agency. We are wanting to make sure that we are connecting with people that are knowledgeable about our health-care system so that’s what we are concentrating on,” she said.
“We are finalizing our appointments … it is going to be a professional person.”
In recent months, the Tories have been criticized for appointing friends of Premier Doug Ford, including Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, 72, the proposed new commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, whose party’s obtaining of draft legislation led to a mid-level government bureaucrat being fired on Feb. 4, said she’s worried about what the revamped system will look like.
“They better close this idea of a super agency that’s going to take away the local specifics around what people need in their communities,” said Horwath.
“We’re very, very concerned about that,” she said, warning of increased “privatization” in health care.
The draft bill, which Elliott downplayed as a “very early” version, would give the new super agency unprecedented powers to contract out health services.
One of the leaked documents, titled “agency review weekly status report,” indicates the government has used focus groups to gauge acceptance of the health-overhaul plan.
Some 20 existing health agencies are expected to be folded into the new body.
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie