By: Humera Inam
The people of Ontario do not have equitable access to proper health care. Long-term care beds are not always available for patients who need urgent services. Public funding is not being spent in a way that improves the overall physical health, mental health, and well-being of Ontarians.
Everyday thousands of people receive high-quality medical services in Ontario. Unfortunately, at the same time, many Ontarians do not have proper, timely and appropriate access to clinically essential health care.
“According to the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario, almost all health care program areas have seen increased funding in the last five year. The most significant increase in funding have been for Ontario drug programs, hospitals, long-term care homes and community programs”.
Despite these increases in funding, Ontario’s Health System is facing several challenges. One of the biggest problems is overcrowding in emergency rooms. According to Hallway Health care report, 41% of Ontarians who visited an emergency room, and 93% who went to a walk-in clinic, were seen for conditions that could have been treated by their family doctor.
There are problems with wait times: patients who are admitted to emergency rooms wait an average of 16 hours in the ER before getting a hospital bed. Patients’ conditions become worse while waiting for a bed.
- Lack of access to proper health services, supervision and follow-up causes enormous stress to patients and their caregivers.
- Patients with mental health and addiction services are often denied support when it is urgently required.
- Overcrowding in emergency rooms increases during flu season. However, about 3,000 beds are used by patients who are discharged from the hospitals but still wait for an alternative level of care, such as a long-term care space, or arrangements for home care. But home care and community-based health care currently doesn’t meet the health needs of the Ontarians.
To overcome these challenges, the government should more focus on digital health and virtual appointment system. Patients who visit their family physicians in-person for a routine check-up or follow-up should be encouraged to use a virtual platform instead. The government should hire more doctors, nurses and staff, and provide more beds in those hospitals where the capacity challenges are greatest. The government should update the rules over access to long-term care beds to ensure these beds are available for patients who are in urgent need of services. Ontarians must be engaged in the planning and decision-making processes.
The government should also include private payers as a major stakeholder in an ongoing discussion about health care issues to improve the quality of the health care system.