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Candidates Q and A: Gaps in our healthcare system

Candidates from the four major parties were asked to respond to questions about key issues in the upcoming provincial election

GuelphToday asked the candidates running for the four major parties in Guelph a series of questions about the upcoming election. Responses were limited to 250 words. 

Tonight's question: 'What gaps in our healthcare system did you see during the pandemic, and how would you fix them?'

Raechelle Devereaux, Liberal: 

We know that those who use the most healthcare resources are those who are most sick. And those who are most sick are often the most disenfranchised members of our communities, who face deep poverty, mental health challenges, addictions and homelessness.

The pandemic illustrated the gaps in our health care system for people who face barriers. How can a person safely isolate if they don’t have a home? How can they access telemedicine and other services if they don’t have a mobile phone? 

To address this important issue requires many parts – including addressing systemic barriers such as poverty elimination, mental health supports, and the need to end homelessness. We also need accessible, barrier-free healthcare to treat our community’s existing challenges. These are challenges we met in partnership with community organizations, in my role as CEO of the Guelph CHC.

The Liberal party also commits to supporting our healthcare workers, who despite their heroic efforts during the pandemic, have been forgotten by the current government.

We will forgive all student loans for nurses, PSWs, paramedics and other health care workers who were on the front-lines during COVID-19. We will repeal Bill 124 and give raises to all health care workers, and guarantee mental health services for all health professionals. In addition, we will hire 100,000 new nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers.

Through this approach, accessible, quality healthcare will be guaranteed to all Ontarians, while the healthcare workers who provide it are acknowledged and respected for their contributions.

James Parr, NDP:

Where do I start. Chronic staff shortages and burnout have led to a mass exodus of workers from the healthcare system, only made worse by Bill 124. Ontario now has 22,000 fewer nurses per capita then what we need. This is evident by the massive surgery backlog over the last two years, hallway medicine becoming the new normal and the long waits in emergency rooms. 

The fix here would be by investing and not cutting. Let’s repeal Bill 124, hire nurses and PSWs to address staffing shortages and strengthen our overall public healthcare system so that if we are ever faced with another pandemic, we are prepared and have the resources available. 

Mike Schreiner, Green Party:

The pandemic revealed the cracks in our systems of care, from our hospitals to our social services. I am proud that Guelph General Hospital has since received $15 million from the province to expand their emergency department, because the pandemic made clear that hallway medicine is simply unacceptable.

But there was no more obvious breakdown than in our long-term care homes. I heard from constituents loud and clear: Ontario’s long-term care system is broken. I was able to successfully advocate for 195 new LTC beds in Guelph, the majority of which will be in non-profit facilities. This will help relieve a massive waitlist.

But an overhaul of the system is needed.

In Canada, LTC residents made up 81 per cent of all reported COVID-19 deaths, yet the Toronto Star reported that for-profit LTC operators paid nearly $171 million in dividends to shareholders in the first three quarters of 2020, while receiving $138.5 million in pandemic funding. This is not right. Ontario Greens have a plan, because in the Ontario we want, our elders are not treated as just another revenue stream by private investors.

We must phase out for-profit long-term care; and repeal Bill 218, which shields LTC owners and operators from liability for negligence. We need to reinstate comprehensive annual inspections; mandate minimum standard hours of care; and address the staffing shortage with a $25 minimum wage for PSWs and the repeal of Bill 124. There is so much to be done and I’ll continue to fight on behalf of our loved ones.

Peter McSherry, Progressive Conservative:

No response.