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Drummond Commission Report in two Days

The Council of Canadians has been closely monitoring Ontario’s Drummond Commission. Don Drummond, former TD Bank economist, has been tasked with findings ways for the Ontario government to climb out of a $16 billion deficit. Drummond has said that he will look at every Ontario program and service to find savings. He’s already hinted at eliminating some OHIP- Ontario Health Insurance Plan- medical procedures and operations (such as cesarean sections) and has warned that hundreds of his 360 recommendations will be unpopular.

While we don’t know all the recommendations that Drummond will make, there is still a lot to be concerned about. This blog will only focus on the health care recommendations, but we urge Canadians to listen for changes to other important social services and programmes.

What we do know is that Ontario’s health care is in desperate need of government attention. Ontario is facing a hospital bed shortage- one of the worse in the OCED (industrialized countries) and is at 98 per cent occupancy. Ontario’s hospital bed capacity has been cut by almost 40 per cent since 1990 and despite the government’s claim to be investing those cuts into community care, home care and long term care have also seen severe restrictions in spending. According to the Ontario Health Coalition’s latest report “First Do No Harm”, 30,000 Ontarians are waiting for hospital beds, long-term care placement or home care.

We’ve heard lots of talk about health care budgets growing uncontrollably, yet, Ontario is second from the bottom of all provinces in terms of public spending on hospitals per person. Despite this, Drummond has recently advocated for a reduction in hospital spending equalling $1.5 billion.

Home care and long term care have experienced trends similar hospitals. The OHC shows in their report that despite a 66 per cent increase in the number of home care clients, home care funding has only increased by 40 per cent and funding per client declined by 14 per cent between 2003 and 2009. This is leaving home care with growing pressure on fewer resources.

Long-term care homes is also suffering a similar fate. Wait list for long term care beds in Ontario have never been longer. In 2011, wait lists for long-term care total 36,000. Many of the people currently in LTC facilities are not in the facility of first choice and are seperated from their life partner or loved one. It has been reported that LTC funding increases for the next two years will be half of what they have been for the last eight years. With more Ontarians requiring LTC homes it becomes obvious that further hospital cuts are not being offset by integrating home and community care. These cuts are not just hurting patients, these cuts are also hurting families and communities who are left to try and provide for a loved one’s needs while they wait for beds or appropriate care.

With so many competing needs in Ontario health care it’s impossible to justify further cuts or privatization. There are many evidence-based solutions and innovations in public health care that are waiting to be implemented. The provincial government needs to be looking at these solutions and not turning to privatization admirers such as Drummond to get the green light to privatized and delist the system further. The McGuinty government is simply looking for an excuse to walk away from having to fix Ontario’s health care and implement the easiest solution despite its grave inequity and the suffering that it will continue to cause for tens of thousands.

The Council of Canadians is waiting to see the final report from the Drummond Commission but we have little hope for positive recommendations. There was no public consultation prior to the report being written and the implementation of such austerity measures could have devastating impacts on Ontarians. Judging by the past actions of the McGuinty government, the history of Don Drummond, and the trial balloons that have been floated so far, we are expecting a devastating report.

We will continue to follow the Drummond Commission. We will be blogging and tweeting once it is released on February 15th and we are preparing ourselves to beat back against the McGuinty-Drummond attack.

For more reading on the Drummond Commission Report, see Mark Calzavara’s blog at: http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13089 or the OHC’s full report http://www.web.net/ohc/first-do-no-harm-pre-drummond-report-final.pdf