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Bulletin

Health Care in the Provincial Platforms: What the Parties are Promising

Fasken
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Overview

Health Bulletin

Ahead of the Ontario provincial election on Thursday, this bulletin provides an overview of commitments made by the four major political parties, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (“PC Party”), the Ontario Liberal Party (“Liberal Party”), the Ontario New Democratic Party (“NDP”) and the Ontario Green Party (“Green Party”), on health care issues in the parties’ main platform documents:[1]

Not unexpectedly, health care features prominently in the parties’ platforms.

Long-Term Care, Home Care and Senior Care

  • Each party proposes to build/redevelop over 50,000 long-term care beds and increase funding to long-term care and home and community care. All of the parties have committed to recognize diversity (for example, in language and culture).
  • By law, a licence is required to operate a long-term care home in Ontario. Long-term care homes are operated by for-profit entities, not-for-profit entities and municipalities. The Green Party, Liberal Party and NDP have committed to phase out for-profit long-term care. The Liberal Party is targeting 2028, and is proposing to no longer renew licences and to negotiate/finance transfers. The Green Party has pledged to stop licensing new for-profit homes.
  • The NDP has proposed full public delivery of home and community care. The NDP has committed to establish standards for home and community care services, with core services that all Ontarians are entitled to receive, and would require providers to meet provincially regulated criteria for basic services.
  • The Liberal Party has proposed universal home care (home care for any senior who needs it, with an emphasis on not-for-profit home care), a dementia care network (investing in existing memory clinics and team-based geriatric clinics), 15,000 new assisted living homes and other continuum of care supports.
  • The Liberal Party has proposed to merge home care functions into one provincial ministry focused on seniors, while the Green Party has proposed to transfer regulatory oversight of retirement homes to the Ministry of Long-Term Care.[2] 
  • The Liberal Party has pledged to enhance oversight of long-term care homes and to fund not-for-profit homes to provide an average of at least four hours of direct care daily (the requirement by March 31, 2025 under the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021). 
  • The Liberal Party and Green Party have proposed to repeal legislation providing protection from COVID-19-related liability. See our earlier bulletin, "Health Sector Impacts of Bill 218: Liability Exclusion for COVID-19?", and the Supporting Ontario's Recovery Act, 2020.
  • The Green Party has also pledged to increase oversight and provide a minimum of four hours of nursing and personal care per day in long-term care (including a minimum of 48 minutes of care by a registered nurse and 60 minutes by a registered practical nurse), and increase access to allied health professionals (minimum of one hour per day). 
  • The Green Party has also proposed to create a standard set of home care services and shift to entirely not-for-profit providers within the public home care system. The Green Party has also proposed to facilitate cohousing and coliving arrangements for seniors.
  • The PC Party has proposed a number of long-term care development projects and has committed to investing in specialized beds and services. The PC Party has also pledged to improve sharing of health information, including between long-term care and acute care, and has proposed funding to expand the Community Paramedicine for Long-Term Care program, through which community paramedics provide care for seniors in their homes, to the rest of Ontario (the program currently being in 33 communities and regions).
  • The PC Party has also pledged additional home care funding and investments in community care, such as adult day programs and caregiver supports, as well as in dementia services.

Mental Health and Addictions

  • All four parties have committed to increase funding for mental health and addictions services. The NDP and Green Party have committed to OHIP coverage for services from mental health care providers.
  • The Green Party has proposed to expand public mental health and addictions treatment beds to reduce or eliminate the need for private care; integrate mental health and addictions services into primary care; increase accessibility, including creating a three digit mental health crisis response line to divert calls from 911 and mobile crisis teams and clinics; invest in access to care for young people including in schools; coordinate with public health efforts; and increase community and acute care options for people with complex needs.
  • The PC Party has promised to build on the 2020 Roadmap to Wellness and invest in mental health supports for first responders, through support for the Runnymede Healthcare Centre’s First Responders Post Traumatic Stress Injury Rehabilitation Centre, and has also promised support for children and youth with complex special needs, with a pilot project for an integrated model of health and social services.
  • The Liberal Party has promised to reduce mental health care wait times; provide free “mental health first aid” and online supports; require that private employer benefits include mental health services; have mental health professionals in emergency rooms; and build 15,000 more supportive homes over 10 years. The Liberal Party has also committed to train new mental health and addictions professionals, including for children.
  • The NDP has proposed a new organization to coordinate the mental health system, Mental Health Ontario; investment in children’s mental health by implementing the Make Kids Count Action Plan; supportive housing units for people living with mental health and addiction challenges; and support for mobile crisis response.

Hospitals

  • The NDP, Liberal Party and PC Party have identified specific hospital construction projects in their platforms. The Green Party has committed to invest in new and expanded hospitals.
  • The PC Party’s plan for hospital infrastructure includes supporting more than 50 major projects to add 3,000 new beds over 10 years. The PC Party has created a Surgical Recovery Strategy to increase scheduled surgeries, procedures and diagnostic imaging. The 2022 Budget provides for additional funding in 2022-23, including to support acute, post-acute and critical care beds, surgical and diagnostic imaging recovery and human resources. The PC Party has also pledged additional funding over three years, including to address demand and priority services (such as cardiac care, cataract procedures, knee and hip replacements and critical care services) and expand facilities.
  • The Liberal Party has pledged to address the surgical and diagnostic backlog and has proposed maximum wait times for surgeries and a return to pre-pandemic wait times by the end of 2022, centralized waitlists (requiring e-referrals), investment in less invasive surgery approaches and support for not-for-profit surgery centres managed by local hospitals. The Liberal Party has also proposed to create 3,000 new hospital beds through expansions and new developments.
  • The Green Party has proposed to work with the federal government to provide surge funding to address backlogs.
  • The NDP has pledged to address surgical backlogs by publicizing the number of delayed procedures, expanding operating room hours, hiring and creating a centralized referral system.

Health Care Professionals

  • All four platforms promise higher pay for personal support workers (“PSWs”) and an increase in the recruitment/hiring of health care professionals, including PSWs, nurses and doctors. The parties have also all made a number of promises to increase the number of students entering health care education programs, particularly to work in rural, remote and northern areas of the province.
  • The parties have also made commitments with respect to foreign trained professionals, including reducing barriers to becoming qualified to work in Ontario. The PC Party, for example, is proposing legislation that would prohibit regulatory colleges from requiring Canadian work experience. The Liberal Party has also promised to replace requirements for Canadian experience.
  • The Green Party, Liberal Party and NDP have pledged to repeal Bill 124.
  • The PC Party has proposed retention incentives for nurses. 
  • The Liberal Party has promised consistent pay across home and community care, long-term care and hospitals. 
  • The Green Party has proposed a nurse-led task force to make recommendations on recruitment, retention and safety of nurses. 

Pharmacare and Dental Care

  • The NDP has pledged to work with the federal government on the expansion of publicly funded dental care, accelerate pharmacare for prescription drug coverage in Ontario in a manner that complements Ontario’s existing public drug programs, and work with the federal government on a national formulary and plan for pharmacare.
  • The Liberal Party has proposed a portable benefits plan (including dental and prescription drug coverage) available to employees who do not receive benefits from their work, and to require employers without comparable benefits to enroll their staff (with an option for employees to opt out). The Liberal Party has pledged to advocate for a national pharmacare plan and until one is implemented, anyone not captured by the proposed portable benefits plan would receive prescription drug coverage through OHIP or the Ontario Drug Benefit program. The Liberal Party has also made funding commitments for certain medications/conditions, and has pledged to work with the federal government to lower the cost of drugs for rare diseases and to ensure private benefit plan coverage for all drugs in Ontario’s public drugs formulary.
  • The Green Party has pledged to partner with the federal government on dental care and pharmacare.
  • The NDP has also promised to end patient user fees in every part of the health care system. 
  • The PC Party has committed to work with stakeholders, subject matter experts, the federal government and other provinces and territories on sustainable public drug programs.
  • All of the parties have committed to addressing access to take-home cancer drugs.

Primary and Other Care

  • The NDP, Liberal Party and Green Party have all committed to support nurse-practitioner-led clinics and expand Ontario’s Community Health Centres (“CHCs”).
  • The Liberal Party has pledged to ensure access to a doctor or nurse practitioner within 24 hours, regardless of where a person lives in Ontario. The Liberal Party has also pledged to make options for virtual visits (video, phone, email and text) permanent and universal when appropriate. 
  • The Green Party has pledged to ensure access to 24/7 non-urgent care, and increase access to family health teams and team-based care, midwives and other community perinatal care services across Ontario. The Green Party has also proposed increased integration and connectivity through digital data sharing and patient health coordinators.
  • The NDP has promised to expand access to midwifery care and perinatal mental health, and protect maternal health and obstetrics services in rural hospitals.
  • All of the parties address access to health care in northern, rural and/or remote parts of Ontario in their platforms. For example, the Green Party has promised better access to care in remote, rural and First Nations communities, including Indigenous-led clinics, community wellness nursing positions in First Nations communities and expanding the scope of nurse practitioners.
  • The Liberal Party has proposed to expand pharmacists’ scope of practice to include prescribing for minor ailments and to allow pharmacists to administer more vaccines.

[1] While intended to be comprehensive, this bulletin does not address every health-related commitment in those documents.

[2] Currently, retirement homes are in the portfolio of the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility.

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