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Reason to worry if Tories rid or drastically reduce LHINs — Bisson “The Daily Press, January 18, 2019”

Posted: January 18, 2019

The Ontario Health Coalition has expressed concern about rumours the provincial government will restructure its current 14 local health integration networks into five and Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson feels it has good reason to worry.
Gilles Bisson

The Ontario Health Coalition has expressed concern about rumours the provincial government will restructure its current 14 local health integration networks into five and Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson feels it has good reason to worry.

In a press release issued on Thursday, Natalie Mehra, executive director of the coalition said, “When Tim Hudak was PC party leader, their plan was to shut down the LHINs entirely. Today the rumoured plan is to keep the LHINs, but make the regions ginormous. The question is what part of the existing LHINs does (Ontario Premier Doug) Ford intend to keep.”

For the record, when asked by The Daily Press which would be the lesser of those two evils, Bisson said, “The Tories are going to do some massive restructuring in health care, home care, the hospital sector and community care.

“We expect they will either get rid of the LHINs or they will severely reduce their number. In other words, instead of having the 14 we have now, they will either get rid of them, or drop them down to five.

“That would mean Northern Ontario would be part of some big entity you would never see the end of.

“That’s the first part, but there are going to be a lot of services you currently get for free, paid for by the health-care system, that are no longer going to be free. They will be income tested.”

In fact, the MPP is convinced the Ford government is headed towards a “two-tier system” of health care in Ontario.

“That is more of an American system where, if you have money, you jump to the front of the line,” Bisson said.

“If you don’t have money, you stay in the public system and then they underfund the public system so it doesn’t work.

“There is going to be a lot of privatization and that’s where they are going to do most of their changes because health care represents probably just over 50 per cent of what we (the provincial government) spend.”

Asked for examples of the kinds of services he feels will no longer be free after the provincial government gets through enacting its planned changes, Bisson said, “The government will make the decisions, but it will be around things like certain surgeries. If you want to get in ahead of the line … we are starting to hear rumours they are going to start going in that direction.

“It won’t be that you can’t get in with the public system, but you are going to have to wait longer because others are going to jump the cue by paying money for it and people shouldn’t have to take their wallets out to get better.

“They should just be able to concentrate on getting better. Don’t do like the Americans because there are a number of Americans who go bankrupt every year because they can’t afford their health-care bills.

“We don’t need that here.”

Getting back to the reduction or elimination of the LHINs, Bisson noted the Tories position on the subject shouldn’t surprise anyone.

“The moment the Liberals created the LHINs, the Tories took the position they wanted to get rid of them,” he said.

“Getting rid of them is one thing. OK, fine, if you want to change how we administer local health services in our communities, let’s have that discussion.

“If there is a more efficient way of doing it, within a public system, anybody is prepared to have that discussion.

“It is far cheaper to deliver health care in the public model than it would be in a private system.”

The MPP went on to give a first-hand example to further illustrate his point.

“Three years ago, a neighbour of mine got very ill with a respiratory infection and he ended up in a hospital in Florida,” Bisson said.

“The bill, after 14 days of being in a hospital, including the doctors, the hospital and all of the stuff charged for when that person was in the hospital, worked out to be just over $500,000.

“I took that bill to Timmins and District Hospital and asked what it would have cost if they had been treated here in Ontario and I was told $27,000.

“Private isn’t cheaper. Private means somebody wants to make money and it’s at the expense of whomever is sick. It’s either the health-care system that pays through our taxes or you who pays by way of a user fee.

“We will all end up paying more money if we privatize. There is a reason why we socialized the cost of medicine. It’s cheaper. If we all pay a little bit, we can watch out for each other.

“If we all work together, we can get a better result. If you start privatizing, you make it a system where people can get to the head of the line because they have got more money.

“At the end of the day, it will make health care closer to what we see in the United States.”

While Bisson is opposed to either a reduction in the number of LIHNs or their elimination all together, he realizes the health-care system could benefit from change.

“It doesn’t mean we don’t have to be innovative and look at different ways of doing things,” he said.

“How can we better use our hospitals? How can we better use our home services?

“For example, there are all kinds of people at home taking care of their children or taking care of their elderly parents and they are not getting any kind of support.

“It would be far easier for us to support them in different ways than to have those people go into a hospital, in an ELC bed, which is very expensive, or a long-term care facility.

“So, there are a lot of things we can do by, quote, breaking down the silos in health care so your hospital, your community, your long-term care facility are all part of one system.

“If it is outside of the LIHNs we do that, it is fine, but it has to be a public system.

“So, I am not defending the status quo. I don’t believe our health-care system over the last 50 years has stayed the same.

“There has constantly been changes because technology has changed, financial circumstances have changed and also what patients expect has changed. People don’t want to stay in hospitals and they don’t want to stay in long-term care facilities.”

Bisson is convinced any changes to the current LIHNs will just be the first step towards privatization.

“What the Tories are up to is they are setting the stage in order to be able to privatize and send us into a two-tier system,” he said.

“If you were to say, ‘I prefer one over the other (reduction to five LIHNs/elmination of all LIHNs),’ they are going to take you to the same thing.

“The issue is our health-care system is publicly funded and publicly run and that’s the way it should continue to operate. Can we do things better, can we be more efficient? Absolutely.

“But you do that within the context of making sure the public is involved, because it is a public system, and finding new ways of being able to deliver services to people that will make more sense to them.”