Clear and transparent details needed on Your Health Act

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

I continually interact with constituents, and each person gives me their opinion of the Ontario government and the job I’m doing.

Recently, I was invited to a town hall meeting in Port Dover to discuss our healthcare system. The discussion centred around Bill 60, Your Health Act (2023). Before I address the concerns raised, I’ll discuss in a nutshell what Bill 60 is intended to do. The Bill itself is a long and winding document, so I’ll give you the Coles Notes.

Bill 60, Your Health Act (2023), is essentially a three-step strategy to ease surgical and other healthcare backlogs that will see some for-profit community surgical and diagnostic centres take on more responsibilities, including additional surgeries and other medical procedures.

The first step entails making investments in “new partnerships with community surgical and diagnostic centres” to cut the waitlist for cataract surgeries, which would ensure 14,000 more surgeries per year. Both not-for-profit and for-profit centres would be utilized.

Ontario will also invest in excess of $18 million in existing centres to handle other procedural care like MRI and CT scans, ophthalmic surgeries, minimally invasive gynecological surgeries and plastic surgeries.

The second step directs a further expansion of “non-urgent, low-risk and minimally invasive” procedures.

Lastly, part of the third and final step would allow private clinics to conduct hip and knee replacement surgeries as early as 2024.

More legislation is promised as part of the third step in order to strengthen oversight of community surgical settings. No information was provided about what that oversight will include. Premier Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones have yet to detail how they’ll fund these clinics or provide assurances on their plan actually delivering value for Ontarians.

Therein lies the problem and much of the foundation of the town hall discussion last week. The government hasn’t been clearly communicating exact plans past the first step.  I think what I’ve heard from the government sounds good at a high level, but I need to see more detail before I can fully support this plan.

This not knowing leads to skepticism and fear, especially among stakeholders protecting their turf in the name of protecting Ontarians. Certain stakeholders have cautioned about exacerbated staffing shortages in hospitals, arguing that investing in independent centres will drain resources from the public sector.

The province’s opposition parties and five major healthcare unions consider the plan “a risky venture that will cost Ontarians dearly and damage access to public care.”  The NDP feel Bill 60 would pull staff from hospitals and that those hospitals are not working at full capacity due to government underfunding. I share these concerns.

There are some people out there worried they will have to pay from their own pocket. Ontario has had privatization within health care for decades. LifeLabs and the Shouldice Hospital are examples which both show this can work without abuse. And Premier Ford and Minister Jones have emphasized many times that, despite claims to the contrary, no one will be paying for healthcare with their credit card, it will be with their OHIP card. 

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario generally supports expanding access to diagnostic procedures in community settings, but they also worry it portends a negative impact on staffing throughout the health-care system.

I feel the reforms are positive and past due in order to give Ontarians the healthcare system we deserve. The government continues to do the same thing—throw money at a system that shows no improvement.

Bill 60 may be a case where the government’s bedside manner needs to improve in terms of communicating to the taxpayer how they will be giving our healthcare system the “medicine” it needs to heal. 

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk