Medical Reform Group Letter
to Health Minister Dennis Timbrell
The Honourable Dennis Timbrell, Minister of Health,
Queen's Park, Toronto
Dear Mr. Timbrell:
The recent announcement of further cuts in hospital beds in Ontario
and the decision to charge patients in chronic care and psychiatric
settings has elicited adverse criticism from both the medical profession
and public groups. The Medical Reform Group would like to add its
voice to those which have already been raised protesting these decisions.
The Ontario government has made explicit its commitment to universal
health care. The recently announced decisions concerning resource
disposal, however, belie that commitment. It is completely inconsistent
to talk about universally accessible health care and at the same
time decide to charge psychiatric patients for their long term care.
The government has pointed out that social security benefits paid
to patients in chronic care settings often accumulate in bank accounts
and are eventually harvested by the patient's relatives. We acknowledge
that this is a problem. However, the government's solution, which
undercuts the patients' right to appropriate health care, is unacceptable.
Cuts in hospital budgets are no less an attack on universal health
care accessibility. The cutbacks will mean that patients will be
forced out of hospital earlier, and will return sicker. The scene,
depicted by hospital administraters, of ambulances carrying patients
from one hospital to another looking for the theoretical empty bed,
is not an exaggeration. Many members of the Medical Reform Group
work in downtown Toronto hospitals. We have already faced the situation
in which we have spent hours on the phone, trying to find a bed
in another hospital for our patients. When accessibility is thus
restricted, those with influence of one kind or another will inevitably
get the care; the rest will suffer.
The government has talked about opening acute care beds by shifting
elderly, stable patients who presently occupy a significant number
of such beds to other settings. Those who work in hospitals and
have tried placing a patient in a nursing home or chronic care institution
know how ludicrous, in the present context, such a suggestion is.
Patients in downtown hospitals routinely wait two to three months
for such placement. The beds are simply not available.
The government has spoken of a shift in resource allocation from
hospital to outpatient care. We agree that such a shift would save
money and lead to better patient care. However, the government has
cut back on hospital care without any attempt to redirect the funds
to outpatient facilities. Such facilities are desperately necessary;
but they will not spring up by themselves as sick patients are denied
access to hospital. The establishment of community clinics as the
basic unit of the health care system, as both we and others have
recommended, will in the end save money, but an initial expenditure
to establish new outpatient facilities is necessary.
Canada is still a wealthy country. Government and industry are still
allocating resources in ways which are wasteful and extravagant.
Cutbacks in as basic a need as medical care, cutbacks which further
limit universal access to high quality medical care, are deleterious
Medical Reform Group
New Democratic Party Health critic,
Liberal Party Editor,
Globe and Mail Editor,
Toronto Star Editor,
Ontario Federation of Labour
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