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Mike Harris: A hero of hospital reform

Tom Closson, the CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, has issued a call for a lower rate of growth for health care expenditures by the provincial government: is clear that, without any significant tax increases, any plan to a re-balance the provincial budget must involve a much lower rate of expenditure growth for health care. And it is clear that the government recognizes this.  To quote from a recently-issued government document, quote, “To balance the budget by 2017-18, the government’s plan requires holding the annual growth in program expense to an average of 1.9 percent beyond 2012-13 – much lower than in the past”, end quote.

Closson's slide show suggests that this level of funding will mean negative funding increases for wages, new services, and supplies.

mentioned a few days ago that public sector organizations were already tip-toeing around government, afraid to offend the government's financial sensibilities.  But even by that modest standard, this is a novel approach for an advocate of Ontario hospitals. 

Closson even goes so far as to richly praise the hospital restructuring of the Mike Harris government of the 1990s. 

And although some of the ensuing decisions provoked howls of outrage, the commission  and the government of the day made the first, critical steps toward right-sizing our health care system, away from an inefficient, over-reliance on hospital beds toward an expansion of other parts of the system.  These changes were made on the basis of evidence.

I think I must have lived through a different 1990s.

There were indeed howls of outrage over the cuts in hospital services -- howls that eventually brought the Harris government to their senses.

Ultimately the government reversed the hospital spending cuts they had imposed and began to put a lot more money into the hospital system.  A lot more money.  It's because of that reinvestment that the hospital system survived.

Unfortunately, we seem to have to go through that history once again.


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