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Ontario Hansard - 10-March2020

HOSPITAL FUNDING


Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is to the Premier. As the Premier knows, or should know, hospitals in Ontario have been routinely operating beyond capacity for years and years and years now—and this was before the challenges that are posed now by COVID-19.

What resources is the government allocating to deal with increased pressures that hospitals may be facing?


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Deputy Premier and Minister of Health to reply.

Hon. Christine Elliott: Thank you very much for the question. It is a very important one. We want the people of Ontario to know that we do have a plan that includes our hospitals and includes all of our health workers, who are doing a fantastic job, as well as our public health workers right now.

We have a plan in place that’s going to deal with that. We have an enhanced pandemic response that formally brings together a wide range of partners to strengthen and implement the plan, and we have tables to deal with each of those issues. We have the command table, as I’ve indicated before, to act as a single point of oversight and direction. We also have five regional planning and implementation tables that are going to review the regional plans and bring together the providers, should the circumstances change. We are ready for any change in circumstance. We have a collaboration table, where we receive, with members from key health sector organizations, to advise the command table, and other important health sector partners, all of whom are engaged in making sure that the health and safety of all Ontarians remains our number one—


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.

The supplementary question.


Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, yesterday the Ford government confidently predicted that in the event that a hospital had to go into lockdown because of being overwhelmed from people coming to get tested, other hospitals could step up and take over primary responsibilities. It is astounding that that’s the response of the Minister of Health when she knows that our hospitals are operating over capacity.

We have been in a crisis for years because of what the Liberal government left us with. Hospitals in greater Toronto as well as Hamilton, London, Sudbury, Peterborough and Niagara Falls are all routinely operating over capacity. So unless—

Interjection.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Stop the clock. The Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry must come to order.

These are important issues that are being discussed in the Legislature this morning. The people of Ontario would expect us to treat the issue with the importance—

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order. The Speaker is giving a speech.

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry will come to order.

I have to be able to hear the question and the answer. These are important issues.

I apologize to the Leader of the Opposition. She had the floor. Start the clock. Please continue.


Ms. Andrea Horwath: Thank you, Speaker. I’ll just repeat that hospitals in the greater Toronto area as well as Hamilton, London, Sudbury, Peterborough and Niagara Falls are all routinely operating over capacity. We have raised this issue time and time again. The former government did nothing about it. This government is not on track. But unless they’re adding new resources to these overcrowded hospitals, I don’t see how anything is going to change. What is the government prepared to do?

Hon. Christine Elliott: I can certainly agree with the leader of the official opposition that the situation with Ontario’s hospitals being overcrowded was something that took 15 years in the making. It was not created by this government. However, we are duly working on that and trying to reduce the numbers.

That said, I think it’s really important, Mr. Speaker—and I’ll say through you to the leader of the official opposition—it is very important that we remain calm and rational about this situation, and look at the resources we have and how we can use them most appropriately. That is what we are doing. That is what our plan contemplates. That is what we will do, should the situation escalate. There is a detailed plan in place in order to deal with that.

Our comprehensive response planning includes: effective surveillance, prompt laboratory testing—and we are increasing our laboratory testing resources—appropriate care and treatment, evidence-based public health measures—and our public health partners are doing a terrific job here—and transparent communications. That is very important. The people of Ontario deserve to know what’s going on. We have been open—


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much.

The final supplementary.


Ms. Andrea Horwath: Despite the government’s promises of ending hallway medicine, the Ford government has continued the Liberal policy of freezing hospital budgets. This year, hospitals indicated that increased investment is crucial if they’re going to tackle hallway medicine, much less deal with increased demand. Is the government going to make these investments?

Look, the budget is coming. We know it’s printed. We know it was delivered to the Premier. What we want to see in that budget is evidence that this government is prepared to fund hospitals, not only to the amount that they request just to keep a broken system afloat, but so that they can actually respond to the issues that we’re now facing with the outbreak of COVID-19 here in Ontario that appears to be picking up speed.

So my question is, how exactly do they plan to respond to the increased pressure that is occurring as a result of COVID-19?


Hon. Christine Elliott: Ending hallway health care was a key commitment that we made to the people of Ontario during the last election, and we are delivering on that commitment.

We have increased the funding to hospitals by over $340 million this year, in addition to an extra $68 million for small to medium-sized hospitals that were dealing with a funding pressure that was created by the previous government, not by us.

We are working on ending hallway health care, but at the same time, we are working on our comprehensive plan to deal with COVID-19. We will be able to deal with it, should the situation escalate, but we are doing excellent work to try and contain right now with people who are returning to Canada from other countries. We are continuing to offer incredible surveillance with that and testing so that the people of Ontario can know that there is a plan in place, the plan is in operation, and the risk to Ontarians remains low.

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