11/23/11

PCs follow Drummond: major health care review?

Will the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) push for a large scale review of health care?  Ottawa Citizen reporter Pauline Tam says PC health critic Elizabeth Witmer is hinting this will be the price for the PC support for the Liberal minority government.  The review would focus on   improving elder care, chronic-disease management and disease prevention.

The former health minister, who presided over hospital restructuring under Premier Mike Harris, criticized Liberal health spending as “ad hoc” and directionless. “They’ve never told us where they’re going, or why they’re going there, and I think the last time any government did that was our government under Mr. Harris.”


With hospital closures, centralization of services, and service cuts, the 1990s PC review of the healthcare system was expensive, chaotic, and much hated. Key PC policies were later reversed (as discussed here many times). And there is little reason to think another major restructuring will be better this time around:


Dr. Wilbert Keon, a former Conservative senator and current chairman of Eastern Ontario’s Champlain LHIN, said the last thing the system needed was the added distraction of an expensive and time-consuming overhaul. “I don’t think people should get distracted into redesign. Instead, they should be devoting all their energies to improving the programs we have,” Keon said.


Major health care reviews often come back into style when governments want to cut services but prefer to call it "system redesign", "patient focused care", or something else a little more pleasant on the ears.  Health care consultants should do well, however.  Expect no different here.

Finally, Wtimer suggests the PCs are going a little soft on their hard-line criticism of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) .   The PCs "don’t support the current LHIN model. We don’t believe it’s addressing the needs of patients,” but she adds "there could well be a need for some regional bodies.”

Notably, Witmer's demands for restructuring follows hot on the heals of Don Drummond's similar endorsement last week.   (Drummond is leading the Drummond Commission on public services in Ontario.)

Update 11:36 pm: Premier McGuinty is now also making some noises about health care reform: Here's the Toronto Star tonight on an interview with the premier:  'McGuinty made it clear that he would be demanding significant savings in a health-care budget that will be more than $47 billion this year.  “When you fish for efficiencies you have to fish where the fish are and there are a lot to be found in health care”.'

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