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Ford government out of touch with health crisis, says Schreiner

Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner is calling on the Ford government to rebuild Bill 124, enacted in 2019 and caps public sector wage increases at one per cent for three years
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GuelphToday file photo.

Guelph's MPP says the provincial government is "completely out of touch" when it comes to the health care system in crisis.

It comes a day after the throne speech was delivered at Queen's Park, which offered no new solutions to the problem, which has led to several emergency room closures in Ontario.

"We saw really nothing from the throne speech, or the budget, that would address the fact that a lot has changed since the budget was first introduced back in March," Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, told GuelphToday.

Premier Doug Ford, however, did acknowledge that more can be done to ease the pressures on the health care system.

The speech delivered Tuesday, touted the work already done, from adding beds and nurses, home and community care investments and a plan to build 30,000 new long-term care beds.

Schreiner is calling on the government to make a commitment to rebuild Bill 124, "so that primary health care workers can negotiate fair wages, fair benefits and better working conditions."

He also wants to see the fast tracking the accreditation of internationally-trained health care professionals, and spend the money originally budgeted for health care.

Ontario's Financial Accountability Office found the government left $1.8 billion in health care funding unspent, which Schreiner called "unacceptable."

"Who under spends their health care budget when we're in an unprecedented crisis within the system right now," Schreiner said. 

"And for the minister to continue to dismiss the calls from nurses, doctors and other health care professionals around the severity of the crisis, and the urgency to act, is deeply disappointing for everybody in Ontario."

He said it can be hard to admit you've made a mistake sometimes, but "circumstances have changed pretty significantly" since the capping of wages for public sector workers was enacted in 2019.

Schreiner calls the "few hundred" internationally-trained nurses accredited "completely insufficient."

The CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, Doris Grinspun, calls what has been done "baby steps," adding "we need giant steps to bring us out of this massive shortfall of nurses."

Marianne Walker, the president and CEO of Guelph General Hospital, said over-capacity and staffing issues are struggles being faced by hospitals across Ontario.

"It will take collective solutions, all working together, to overcome these challenges," she said in an emailed statement. "We are pleased that investment in health care remains a government priority and will continue to work with Ontario Health and the Ministry of Health to meet the needs of our community."

Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, in delivering Ford's speech, said while historic investments have helped to support Ontario's health system through "the most challenging period in modern history," significant pressures are still being felt, "including an exhausted workforce and increasingly stressed emergency departments."

"More can still be done," she said. "Your government is actively engaging with health-system partners to identify urgent, actionable solutions and will implement whatever measures are needed to help ease immediate pressures, while also ensuring the province is ready to stay open during any winter surge."

- With files from The Canadian Press.

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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Mark is a graduate of Canadore College in North Bay whose career has taken him through a number of spots across Ontario. He spent nearly a decade in the radio news industry in North Bay, Timmins and Waterloo Region
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