By Robert Benzie Queen’s Park Bureau Chief
Premier Doug Ford is making vague promises of health-care reform, but insists any changes prescribed would be fully publicly funded.
“Guys, we can’t continue doing the same thing and pouring billions, which we’ll continue doing, and expecting a different result,” Ford said Friday in Dundalk, about 125 kilometres northwest of Toronto.
“Something has to give,” he said.
“It’s not a money issue. We have to do things differently, so we’re going to get the best ideas from the professionals and we’re going to implement those ideas.”
That immediately sparked charges from the opposition New Democrats that Ford’s recently re-elected Progressive Conservatives are planning further privatization of health care.
“Private for-profit clinics will cost us all dearly,” warned NDP MPP France Gélinas (Nickel Belt).
“They’ll bleed staff away from our public hospitals and urgent care centres, making the health care crisis much worse,” said Gélinas.
“If private surgery clinics accept your OHIP card for your procedure, they bill you for your room, the painkillers you take, your meals, the physical therapy you need and more. People walk away from these facilities with bills for thousands of dollars.”
Not so, argued Ford.
“I still believe Canadian health care under the (Canada) Health Act is still the best system. Do we have to improve it? Darn right we have to improve it,” the premier said.
“There’s one thing I will guarantee: you’ll always be covered by OHIP, not your credit card,” he said.
“One hundred per cent is going to be covered. We’re never going to waver from that. Are we going to get creative? Absolutely. As I as I mentioned, we just can’t as a province keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”
Citing specialized private facilities like the Shouldice Hernia Hospital in Markham, Ford said “if there is a way of delivering better publicly funded health care, we’re going to do it.
“Everything’s on the table — and I’m not going to do anything without consulting with the experts out there,” he said, echoing controversial comments from Health Minister Sylvia Jones earlier this week.
But Gélinas said “it’s deeply worrying that Mr. Ford mentioned Shouldice as a model to look to,” because it is the only fully private hospital in Ontario.
“While Shouldice was grandfathered in, its private model was banned because of the cost to people and to the system,” she noted.
Around 40 per cent of Ontario’s health-care system is already effectively private — including services delivered by doctors, laboratories, and at many walk-in clinics.
Under the federal Canada Health Act, provinces and territories must abide by certain conditions in order to receive billions in health-care transfer payments from Ottawa.
“The aim of the (act) is to ensure that all eligible residents of Canada have reasonable access to insured health services on a prepaid basis, without direct charges at the point of service for such services,” the federal government says.
Ford’s comments on health-care reform weren’t the only thing generating a lot of buzz at his news conference.
A bee flew into the premier’s mouth while he was speaking with reporters.
“Holy Christ, I just swallowed a bee. He’s wedged in my throat. Man, he went right down the hatch. He’s down here buzzing around right now. There’s a lot of a lot of real estate there,” he quipped.
The premier said the resulting video clip was a gift to journalists.
“I just made Colin D’Mello’s day,” he joked, referring to the Global News bureau chief who is also president of the Queen’s Park press gallery.
“Make sure you play that blooper. That’s a good one, that’s the best I’ve ever seen.”