THUNDER BAY – The leader of Ontario’s New Democrats says provincial emergency room wait times will be cut in half if she forms the next government.
Reducing the amount of time patients spend in the ER was a prominent piece of the NDP platform, which leader Andrea Horwath reiterated during a Monday morning campaign stop in Thunder Bay.
Horwath proposes creating 50 new family health clinics across the province and bringing additional nurse practitioners to emergency rooms to reduce pressure on the system, an issue all too familiar to people across the city.
“We know the North is under serviced significantly so I’m a certain a number of those family health clinics will be servicing people in the North because we’re going to make sure that’s what happens,” Horwath said in a speech to a group of supporters.
“A family shouldn’t have to wake up at 2:30 in the morning with a child with an earache and take that child to emerge and not be able to come home with that child until 3 the next afternoon. That’s not a health care system that meets the need of families.”
In addition, the NDP platform proposes requiring 250 newly graduated doctors to work in areas of need across Ontario in exchange for helping to pay off their student debt.
Horwath also pledged to eliminate wait lists for home care as well as long-term care.
“There are waiting lists where people are waiting months to get the home care they need. We are going to get rid of the wait lists for home care and long-term care to reduce the pressures in the emergency rooms,” Horwath said.
When reached on Tuesday, Thunder Bay-Atikokan Liberal candidate Bill Mauro says if the NDP is true in their intent to improve home care, they would not have rejected a budget that included a raise for personal support workers.
“We have been investing in a very large way in home care for four or five years now and they know that. In fact, they have voted against more than a couple of those initiatives in the last two to three years,” Mauro said.
Mauro says adding the nurse practitioners will not have the impact the party is portraying.
It will fall short throughout the province.
“Adding 250 nurses spread across 150 hospitals, I’m not sure how the NDP math works on that but it doesn’t sound to me it’s going to have the effect they’d like the public to think it would,” Mauro said.
Thunder Bay-Superior North Progressive Conservative candidate Derek Parks says it is clear local health-care personnel are doing everything they can with the facilities available.
He thinks the NDP plan is an empty promise and follows Liberal cuts to the number of available beds and seniors’ facilities.
“I think we would be happy if we got served in regular time with the emergency department in Thunder Bay-Superior North. This problem has been exuberated by closing down two hospitals and giving us one without the same number of beds,” Parks said.
“I’d love to see how they plan to do that. I think it’s disingenuous to play politics with something so important, especially to this riding.”
He says the PC platform advocates for a complete overhaul of the system, starting with a review of the LHIN models.
Money going to bureaucratic sources such as LHINs would be better off invested in front line supports, Parks added.