doug ford healthcare announcement

People in Ontario are seriously worried after Doug Ford's latest announcement

It's rare these days that a Doug Ford healthcare announcement goes over well with most Ontario residents, but the premier may have truly outdone himself Monday morning (in terms of making the masses mad) with a new plan to "fix" the problems faced by overcrowded, under-staffed, and increasingly ineffective hospitals across the province.

"The Ontario government is making it easier and faster for people to access the publicly-funded surgeries and procedures they need by further leveraging community surgical and diagnostic centres to eliminate surgical backlogs and reduce wait times," reads a news release issued by the provincial government after Ford's press conference with Health Minister Sylvia Jones on Monday.

"As the government significantly expands the number of surgeries being done through community surgical and diagnostic centres, it will do so with measures in place to protect the stability of health human resources at public hospitals..."

Translation: Ontario is expanding the scope of medical procedures that can be performed at privately-run clinics, as opposed to exclusively within hospitals.

The goal is to help cut through a backlog of roughly 206,000 people who are currently waiting in Ontario for "hospital operating room-based surgical procedures," including some ophthalmic, gynecological and plastic surgeries.

"Community" surgical clinics, as they're being called, aren't new; Some 26,000 OHIP-insured surgeries and procedures are carried out within centres licensed under the Independent Health Facilities Act every year, according to the Ford's government.

What Ford wants to do is expand the procedures, both in nature and quantity, that can be performed outside hospitals in private facilities — facilities owned by people who stand to make a pretty penny under such a model.

In Monday's release, Ontario revealed that it would be investing more than $18 million into existing community surgical and diagnostic centres "to cover care for thousands of patients, including more than 49,000 hours of MRI and CT scans."

The province also noted that it was spending $300 million as part of its surgical recovery strategy, which "prioritizes patients waiting longer than recommended in clinical guidelines" and offers "premiums to hospitals to support completion of over 200,000 surgeries and procedures."

You can read the full rundown of Ontario's three-step plan to shorten surgical backlogs here, but Ford made sure to answer one question straight off the bat, before he could be accused otherwise:

"When it comes to your health, the status quo is no longer acceptable," said the premier on Monday. "Our government is taking bold action to reduce wait times for surgeries, all while ensuring Ontarians use their OHIP card to get the care they need, never their credit card."

As much as they hope that Ford stays true to his word, many Ontarians seem to be worried that he won't, given a recent track record that includes reversing course on promises to protect the Greenbelt, among other things.

Some fear that the move puts Ontario's healthcare system under further threat of full privatization, as they did after pharmacists were granted the ability to treat certain ailments and prescribe some medications previously available only from doctors.

"This was Doug Ford's plan all along. He has spent years starving our health care system of resources, demoralizing health care workers with his wage-capping Bill 124 and leaving Ontarians desperate for care and frustrated by his games," said Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles and NDP Health critic France Gélinas in response to Ford's announcement on Monday.

"We want to be clear – he will not get away with this. People will end up paying out of pocket and face longer wait times in our hospitals, as his plan drives healthcare workers from our public system. At every turn, he proves that he doesn’t care about ordinary Ontarians – just making profits for his donors and friends."

Others are concerned that public hospitals may lose even more nurses and doctors to private clinics that can pay better money for the same work.

Others smell corruption, whether it exists or not.

While many questions remain concerning the financial and commercial elements of Ford's latest healthcare program, the province was sure to mention when announcing its three-step plan this morning that safeguards will be in place to protect human resources at hospitals.

New facilities will be required to "provide detailed staffing plans as part of their application," according to the release, and each centre must have "a number of physicians" with active privileges at their local hospitals.

Much remains to be seen in terms of how this will all pan out, but many everyday Ontarians (those who aren't wealthy) will go to sleep this evening worried that they may no longer have access to vital healthcare services one day.

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