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Ont. Auditor-General Releases Report, Highlights Health Care, Stimulus Spending & College Problems

Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter released his annual report Monday and revealed a wide array of problems ranging from unnecessary hospital stays, inaccurate property tax assessments and crumbling colleges.

A large portion of McCarter’s assessment focused on health care. He found that more than 50,000 patients were kept in hospitals longer than was necessary last year due to a lack of long-term care beds and home care services – a problem that will only get bigger, he said, as the population ages.

McCarter noted that people over the age of 65 make up 13 per cent of Ontario’s population, but account for nearly 60 per cent of patient-days in hospitals. The number of seniors is expected to double in the next two decades.

Approximately half of patients who could’ve been discharged from hospital to home care had to wait in hospital for six days, on average, before they could access service.

The provincial watchdog also noted that emergency room wait times still aren’t meeting targets due to the inability to free up in-patient beds.

Some waits for people with serious conditions reached 12 hours. The provincial target is eight hours. The province has spent $200 million over the past two years to improve ER wait times.

McCarter also highlighted problems with how the province handled stimulus money. He said half of the funds were given to projects that weren’t “shovel ready”, which was a requirement.

The province approved $600 million worth of applications in four hours to meet deadlines of the federal stimulus program.

McCarter also took issue with the fact the provincial government didn’t submit thousands of outdoor billboards erected at stimulus construction sites to his office to be vetted, as is required.

Inaccurate property tax assessments were also highlighted in McCarter’s report. He claims the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation miscalculates the value on one of every eight properties by as much as 20 per cent. He said many Ontarians are either paying too much or too little tax.

McCarter also criticized the Family Responsibility Office, which is responsible for collecting support payments. The auditor says the agency only acts on a maximum of 25 per cent of its cases every year.

About 20,000 people have to apply for welfare each year when a former partner fails to pay support.

And McCarter said at least $500 million is needed to fix up the province’s crumbling colleges.