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Tim Hudak and the demise of the LHINs: Real change or rhetoric?

For some time, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak has called for the demise of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs).

In some ways, this echoes the call from labour unions and community health care advocates.  

Here's what Mr. Hudak said about LHINs in Coburg the other day: "This is basically a bloated layer of middle management that gets between the Ministry of Health and the doctors and nurses and the patients they are trying to care for....People at the LHINs, they have never spent a minute with patients... friends that's wrong and that is why as premier, I will close doors on the LHINs and put every penny into care for Ontario families."

While Mr. Hudak's emphasis on the bloated layer of bureaucracy squares with a right wing take on public services, it has very little to do with reality.  

The amount of money spent on the LHINs is puny compared to the real costs of health care.  And, in any case, those dollars cannot actually be turned over to health care - some body will have to coordinate health care services, even if it is not the LHINs.

So, a lot of Mr. Hudak's comments on the LHINs sound more like partisan rhetoric.   

For my money, there are two basic problems with the LHINs.  First, they are (quietly) charged with centralizing and reducing local hospital services and, second, they distance elected government officials from decisions to reduce or centralize local health care services.  

In other words, they allow governments to to evade responsibility for one of the most basic political issues (access to health care), an issue that should be fully subject to the democratic political process.

And in this way the LHINs are like the Health Services Restructuring Commission (HSRC) established by the LAST Progressive Conservative government.  THAT government used the HSRC to take the flack for unpopular decisions to cut and centralize hospital services.

So might a new Progressive Conservative government create a more open and democratic process for health care coordination?  Will they stop the cuts to local health care services?  

Well, unfortunately, there's very little sign of that. Quite the contrary...


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