‘Status quo is just not working’: Doug Ford rallies Maritime premiers in push to change how health care is delivered

Warning “the status quo is just not working” in health care, Premier Doug Ford is rallying his counterparts in Atlantic Canada to change the way medical services are delivered.

Days after unveiling a plan to tackle problems in Ontario’s system after two-and-a-half pandemic years — including more private delivery of publicly funded care — Ford took his crusade to New Brunswick.

“It’s the same common issues that we see across the country,” he said Monday after meeting with the Progressive Conservative premiers of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

“When someone walks into an emergency room, be it in Halifax or Moncton, anywhere across this country … they don’t want to be sitting there for 10 to 12 hours,” said Ford, who has been under fire over emergency room closures due to staffing shortages here.

“The status quo is not working, folks. We need to be creative. We need to come up with ideas from the sector.”

Ford, who also had a private one-on-one meeting with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc, said the premiers also need additional money from Ottawa.

Leblanc’s office said it was an “informal” meeting and there would be no statement.

“I had a phenomenal conversation with Minister Leblanc today and he wants to work with us. He’s done a great job and working with all the premiers but I did mention to him … I can’t have a conversation alone,” the Ontario premier said.

“This needs to be with all premiers from all provinces and territories to sit around the table and come up with a solution because doing the same over and over again, throwing billions and billions of dollars at a solution — and keeping the status quo — is just not working.”

But NDP MPP France Gélinas (Nickel Belt) said Ford should be “investing in the public system instead of siphoning staff and funding away to hand it to private for-profit health-care corporations.”

“Ford isn’t even spending his own health-care budget — last year, he left $1.8 billion in health funding sitting in the bank,” said Gélinas.

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser and Green Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford’s argument that more federal cash is needed is undermined by the fact the Progressive Conservatives spent less than budgeted on health.

But the Tories insist funding isn’t the only challenge.

That’s why, under the plan unveiled last Thursday, they pledged to expedite the accreditation of thousands of foreign-trained nurses already living in Ontario, give paramedics more authority to treat more patients without transporting them to hospitals, and address the high rates hospitals pay for temporary “agency nurses.”

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs stressed “we have a system that is broken.”

“We’ve witnessed it across the country. It’s not unique to any one province, it’s consistent. We’ve all had our challenges. COVID only heightened them,” said Higgs.

“But the time to make a difference is now — there’s a sense of urgency and the status quo is just not acceptable.”

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King agreed there’s a need to “deliver health care a little bit differently, changing the scope” of services delivered.

“I don’t think it’s outrageous for a Canadian to want to go get access to health-care service without having to be in … the wrong line — or have to wait for 15 hours to get it — when we have professionals who work within the service who could provide it,” he said.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston noted pharmacists and paramedics, among others, are already providing more and different services across the country.

“You’re seeing scopes expand,” said Houston.

“There’s an open mindedness … that creates an opportunity,” he said, adding Ottawa “has a role to play certainly around immigration for health-care professionals” as well as increasing funding.

While around 40 per cent of health services are already privately delivered — including at labs and walk-in clinics — the federal Canada Health Act forces provinces and territories to meet certain conditions in order to receive billions in health-care transfers from Ottawa.

“The aim of the (act) is to ensure that all eligible residents of Canada have reasonable access to insured health services on a prepaid basis, without direct charges at the point of service for such services,” the federal government says.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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