The MyHaliburtonNow.com newsroom reached out to all the candidates that will be on the ballot for the June 2 provincial election to get their thoughts on the issues that matter in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.
Each week leading up to election day, we will publish a story with each candidate answering a question that residents have as they head to the polls.
This week, we asked them about health care: “Reports say the province’s hospitals have been dealing with staffing issues and a constant overflow of patients. As our riding, hospitals, and long-term care (LTC) homes continue to deal with pandemic-related pressures, what can we look forward to seeing in terms of relief to the health care system if you’re elected?”
Laurie Scott, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Scott says her party has already invested more in health care than any party in Ontario history. She says that includes billions of dollars to ramp up hospital beds and recruit new health care workers.
Locally, Scott says the Conservatives increased funding at Haliburton Highlands Health Services by $200,000 this year, and since 2016 have increased the organization’s operating funding by about 34 per cent. She says that includes $130,000 for critical upgrades this year, and $1.3-million in the previous budget year.
According to Scott, her party is promising 3,000 new hospital beds across more than 50 hospitals in the next decade, and hiring 27,000 long term care staff over four years.
She adds the PCs have made the temporary COVID-19 wage increase for personal support workers (PSWs) permanent, and will continue with retention bonuses for nurses and free tuition for PSWs.
Barbara Doyle, New Democratic Party of Ontario
Doyle says as a co-founder of the Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition, health care is dear to her heart.
She says her party would ensure that profit is taken out of health care. That includes recovering for-profit long-term care homes into the public sector, as she notes that two-thirds of LTC COVID-19-related deaths were in for-profit homes.
Doyle says that PSWs would get an immediate $5 hourly wage increase, and be ensured stable, full time jobs. She adds they’d clear the 39,000-person waitlist for long term care, immediately bump direct care to four hours per resident, and build more small family-like homes.
Doyle also says her party would scrap Bill 124, which caps wage increases for public sector employees. She says she’d also work to repeal Private Member’s Bill 65, which was passed by Conservative candidate Laurie Scott. According to Doyle, that bill puts the Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay at risk of privatization and service cuts.
Tom Regina, Green Party of Ontario
According to Regina, the effect of keeping the wages of nurses suppressed by Bill 124 is among the many issues behind the 20 percent shortfall in nursing staff that many hospitals are experiencing. He says successive governments have reduced hospital capacity in Ontario to the point that it has become the lowest in Canada.
Regina says Ontario has the highest percentage of for-profit long-term care homes in the country and has the highest COVID death rate, 78 percent, among LTCs in Ontario showing the results of putting profits before patients and workers. He adds that LTCs must revert to nonprofit status and be staffed with nurses and personal support workers who are properly paid and protected.
He says his party has a plan for a caring society which will include expanding mental health and addiction care under OHIP. The Greens, Regina says, will create a dedicated Ministry of Health and Addiction and build 60,000 permanent Supportive Housing spaces under our housing-first strategy with wraparound Mental Health supports.
Dr. Kerstin Kelly, Ontario Party
Dr. Kerstin Kelly says hospital staff have not been treated well at all during the pandemic.
According to Kelly, we need to train more nurses in Ontario and make more spaces available for nurses and doctors and respect our nurses and hospital staff.
She adds the hospitals were empty in 2020 and the morale was low. She adds that re-hiring nurses who were let go due to their vaccination status would also help.
Gene Balfour, Libertarian Party
Balfour says his party wants non-government options. He says competition in healthcare and long-term care is the best way to address the reported issues adding their non-Government options model will facilitate that completion.
He says it will enable non-government service providers to complete and co-exist with government service providers in a vibrant market of consumer choices. He says for this to succeed every citizen must be free to choose to opt-out of government services and thereby be exempt from paying taxes to fund the government service providers.
He says a healthy dose of competition in health and long-term care is just the remedy we need to bring out the best possible range of choice for everyone, adding it will make both sectors more robust and patient serving.
The Liberal Party’s Don McBey and New Blue Party’s Ben Prentice have not yet responded to requests for comment.
**With files from Brad Aubin, Mo Fahim, and Mathew Reisler