Local election candidates meet with LWHA for ‘fireside chat’ on health care

·4 min read

PERTH-WELLINGTON – The Listowel-Wingham Hospitals Alliance (LWHA) invited MPP candidates for Perth-Wellington to discuss health care before the upcoming provincial election. Intended to be a ‘fireside chat’ to talk about issues facing the hospital, the LWHA wanted to build a relationship with whoever becomes the representative for the region. The evening was not meant to be a debate between the parties, but a discussion on issues, possible solutions, and platforms.

Among issues discussed during the May 18 meeting were ‘mismatches’ that are present in health care right now. Recruitment was the answer many candidates suggested. Green Party candidate Laura Bisutti said that her party wants to invest in a surge fund for backlogged surgeries and address shortages in labour at the source. “You want to invest in the number of nurses, to make it a desirable profession.” Accrediting international nurses could also be a part of the solution.

Liberal candidate Ashley Fox, who has first-hand experience with the issues facing the health-care system as a registered nurse, said that modernizing healthcare is a key priority for her party. She indicated that the College of Nurses is looking at internationally-trained nurses, but noted that the standards need to be in line with Canadian standards.

NDP Jo-Dee Burbach suggested that to help get to the 30,000 nurses needed – which she said is what experts say the province is short – Ontario should look to internationally-trained nurses. Half of that 30,000 shortage could be filled with international nurses.

PC candidate Matthew Rae said that the government is currently committing $300 million to reduce surgical backlog. His party supports foreign accreditation.

Nursing and physician shortages are not the only shortages facing the health-care system. Shortages in health human resources is also an issue.

Members of the LWHA expressed concern over closures during the pandemic, the primary care system, and family health team access. Three quarters of Ontario does not have access to the program. It’s estimated that $75 million a year for 10 years is needed to fix that.

Fox reiterated that the Liberals want to modernize health care. She suggested including phone, email, video, and text to increase access to family health teams.

Rae said that there are some great examples of family health teams in the region and that the PCs will continue to highlight those examples.

“If there’s family health teams, and the system is working as it should, everyone should have a family doctor,” he said. “So working with our local, rural family health teams, if successful on June 2, we’ll continue to do that – to strengthen and highlight the examples to other parts of the province.”

Long-term care, another hot topic, was also discussed. Fox, who worked in long-term care over the pandemic, said that her party is devoted to equalizing discrepancies in pay.

“We would have a homecare guarantee,” Fox said, “we would increase our funding so that we can have 400,000 seniors that would be able to access homecare properly, we’d be raising the wages for PSW baseline as well as nursing.” They would be ending the wage disparity between hospitals and care homes. She also touched on mental health resources and expanding those resources.

Burbach said that the NDP will be investing substantially into health care. Rae said that the PCs are committed to spending $1 billion, specifically into homecare.

Where these investments are coming from was also a concern raised.

“In our situation,” Fox explained, “there wouldn’t be an increase in taxes aside from those making $400,000 or $500,000 and large businesses, which would help to contribute to our funds.” She also said that using federal funds more efficiently will go a longer way.

The NDP will also raise taxes for high- income earners. Burbach said that by scrapping PC projects like highway 413, they can divert those funds into health care. She pointed out that “all four parties are planning to run a deficit. And the deficit that the NDP is proposing to run is marginally larger than the one that comes from the PC party.”

Rae confirmed that is their platform and their plans will be funded through federal funds.

“I think its really important that we depoliticize health care. That’s one of the NDP’s values,” Burbach said.

Depoliticizing health care was the theme of the evening’s discussion, which was devoted to getting to know the parties’ platforms when it comes to the health care sector.

Connor Luczka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

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