Ontario opposition leaders urge Ford government to invest in health care amid doctor shortage

The Ford government has promised it will not increase taxes or fees when it delivers the Ontario budget at the end of March. But as Tina Yazdani reports, opposition leaders are calling for investments in healthcare and housing.

By Tina Yazdani

Opposition leaders are urging the Ford government to make significant investments in health care in the upcoming Ontario budget, which is scheduled to be delivered at the end of March.

So far, the province has promised they will not increase taxes or fees ahead of the budget, but opposition members say that’s not what Ontarians are focused on.

“We could really make a difference in a lot of people’s lives by addressing the doctor shortage,” said NDP Leader Marit Stiles. “So my question to the premier is exactly how long will he keep people waiting for a doctor?”

Currently, there are 2.3 million Ontarians without a family doctor and that number is expected to double in the next two years. In Toronto alone, there are more than half a million people without one.

Minister of Health Sylvia Jones during Question Period that they are making investments already.

“The investments are happening across Ontario. Seventy-eight different teams in Toronto, in Ottawa, in Orillia, where we see the need, we have made those investments.”

“We’re increasing access to primary care. We are getting it done by making the investments very strategically to ensure people get access to care,” she added.

Stiles said Thursday the government should be listening to doctors who have told them how to address the shortage.

“Doctors say they can take on an additional two million patients if someone else could handle the paperwork. You heard that right: We can cut down the primary care wait list by 90 per cent if the government would help get this paperwork off doctors’ desks,” added Stiles. “Why is this premier letting paperwork stand between doctors and patients?”

Family doctors are spending up to 19 hours per week on paperwork and say the province should eliminate employer-mandated sick notes and modernize outdated referral systems that would help cut this administrative burden.

“A practical solution, a simple solution. Why won’t the government get the paperwork off doctors desks?” said Stiles.

The Ford government is currently on the hook for an estimated $13 billion to compensate workers impacted by Bill 124, which was deemed unconstitutional as it capped public sector worker’s wage increases at one per cent a year over three years.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario found the law violated the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers, which includes nurses and teachers.

In a new report, the province’s financial watchdog warned the government is already overspending on health care and education to cover the retroactive pay.

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