The front-runner for the Ontario Liberal leadership says patients would be treated better if his party topples Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in the 2022 election.
Steven Del Duca, a former minister in premier Kathleen Wynne’s government, promised to introduce a “patient’s bill of rights” should the Liberals take power again in two years.
“It’s time to give patients the power,” said Del Duca, adding a bill of rights would “guarantee timely access to a health-care practitioner for all Ontarians, timely access to emergency care, timely access to specialist care, access to mental health and addictions care, access to your own medical records and more.
“We have a shortage of front-line workers, it’s imperative we implement the right funding priorities to truly impact health outcomes,” he said.
“We need truly integrated care that puts patients at the centre. Doug Ford’s solutions to health-care has been slogans. There is no plan to better quality of care in Ontario from the Progressive Conservatives.”
The Liberals will choose their next leader at a delegated convention in Mississauga on March 7. Delegate selection votes will be held Feb. 8-9 in ridings across the province.
Some 2,500 delegates will be eligible to cast ballots for the new leader.
The Liberals had governed Ontario for almost 15 years until Ford’s Tories won a landslide in 2018, reducing the Grits to a tiny rump without official status in the legislature.
Despite that, recent public opinion polls show them in a statistical tie with the governing party and ahead of the NDP, who are the official opposition.
Also in the running are: Liberal MPPs Michael Coteau and Mitzie Hunter, who are both former Wynne ministers; ex-candidates Kate Graham and Alvin Tedjo; and Ottawa lawyer Brenda Hollingsworth.
Del Duca said he would appoint a new patient ombudsman for the province, reviving a post that has been moribund for almost two years.
Health Minister Christine Elliott served as Wynne’s patient ombudsman before stepping down to return to electoral politics in early 2018.
Even though Elliott has been in charge of the health ministry since June 2018, her former job has sat vacant.
The Liberal leadership hopeful said such an ombudsman would work with “a once again independent Health Quality Ontario” to ensure that patients’ rights in the bill are being guaranteed.
As well, Del Duca would work with the public and private sector on computer and phone apps to enable more timely access to health services and improve existing digital portals.
A Liberal administration “would make it easier for people to access their personal health records digitally, so all you need is a password and an internet connection.”
“Your health records would travel with you when you transition from one care setting to another,” said Del Duca.
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His bill of rights would ensure that patients get access to a family doctor or nurse practitioner within 24 to 48 hours regardless of where they live in Ontario as well as guarantee timely treatment in emergency rooms.
Finally, there would be wait-time guarantees for seeing a specialist and getting surgery.
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