Last week, Zoomer Studios in west-end Toronto was packed with seniors, children, working moms, as well as executives of 16 major patient and health-care advocacy groups. They came for the first and only health-care debate in the 2018 provincial election.
Two candidates walked on the stage, both having served at Queen’s Park, both with a focus on improving health care. Christine Elliott, candidate MPP for the Progressive Conservatives sat across from France Gelinas, candidate MPP for the NDP. Moderating the debate was Libby Znaimer, well-known health advocate.
This debate was a long time in coming. The calls for improving Ontario’s health-care system have grown louder the last few months. It’s been tough watching the services we depend on erode.
Years of funding cuts to all front-line services have left the cupboards so bare that even a last-minute loosening of the government purse strings hasn’t been enough. So this debate was an important step to address the inadequacies of our health system and to showcase solutions.
There was, however, one glaring omission. Not one member of the Liberal Party showed. Ontario is just days shy of the provincial election, and the Liberals sent no one. I was surprised/ not surprised.
After all, this is the government which allowed senior citizens to wait over two years for surgeries or spend a week in a hard gurney in hospital hallways for care. It is the same government that cut funding to new family doctors’ clinics while thousands of patients in every city struggle to find a family physician.
So it is also fitting that as political commitments were made by the PC and NDP candidates to reunify couples forced apart by inadequate home care or to increase the number of hospital beds and nursing home beds, a member of the provincial Liberals was nowhere to be found.
The Canadian Association of Retired Persons shared alarming results of a survey at the debate: 47% of adults cited health care as their number one election issue, with wait-times for procedures and hospital overcrowding topping the list; and 46% of adults aged 50 and older believed that things will get worse and the next generation will have even worse access to health care.
The public will to change the system is there. Just look at the sheer number of organizations that joined forces to put on a health-care debate. Look at the number of people attending the debate. Look at the Ontario Medical Association’s ‘not a second longer’ campaign which doesn’t just raise awareness about the health-care crisis we face, but also asks the government to work with us to change it.
Is the political will there? Well, the first step is showing up.
— Alam is president of the Ontario Medical Association @OntariosDoctors