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More than beds needed to end hallway healthcare: report

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Feb 1st, 2019

Doug Ford campaigned on a promise to end hallway health care and in October his government announced that it was moving forward with a five-year plan that would introduce thousands of new long-term care beds across the province.

“One patient treated in a hallway is one patient too many,” Ford said at the time.

But according to a new report from the Premier’s Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine, it will take more than a new influx of beds to fix an overwhelmed health care system.

The report, titled Hallway Health Care: A System Under Strain paints a grim picture of an overburdened system in dire need of an overhaul. While a lack of beds is undeniably a problem, there’s myriad factors contributing to the strain on the system, including an increase in mental health and addiction problems, a rapidly growing and aging population, and a system that’s complicated to navigate.

“Simply adding more beds to the system will not solve the problem of hallway health care,” the report states. “For example, community mental health and addictions services, as well as community rehabilitation services are two areas where additional access to services could help relieve some of the pressures causing hallway health care.”

The Council heard from over 340 patients. Many said they felt they had nowhere to turn except an emergency room.

“Ontarians cannot always see their primary care provider when they need to, wait times for some procedures and access to specialists and community care are too long, and emergency department use is increasing,” the report states. “A lack of early intervention and prevention is contributing to more patients becoming ill. All of these challenges are connected to the problem of hallway health care.”

“Most mental health and addictions issues are more appropriately treated in the community; however, long wait times for community treatment means sometimes patients’ conditions worsen as they sit in the queue, giving them no other option but to seek care through the emergency department.”

According to the report, the strain on the health care system could be alleviated not only through more supports for patients, but also by better embracing technology, including virtual care and apps.

“The health care system can make better use of available technology, and should aim to deliver integrated and efficient services in all parts of the province. People have more access to digital tools and information than ever before, and expectations for high-quality, efficient, and integrated health care have changed.”

“Solving hallway health care will not just be a matter of adding more beds to the system. Increasing capacity in the community, staffing levels, training, and support will play an important role in building a high-functioning system that works for all Ontarians — including the ones who work in health care.”

Here are some key findings from the report.

  • On an average day in 2018, there were approximately 1,000 patients waiting for a hospital bed in an unconventional space or emergency department stretcher.
  • According to the 2018 Health Care Experience Survey, 41 per cent of Ontarians who went to the emergency department and 93 per cent who went to a walk-in clinic received care for a condition that could have been treated by their primary-care provider.
  • Visits to emergency departments across the province increased by about 11 per cent over the last six years, to 5.9 million in 2017-2018.
  • In November 2018, only 34 per cent of patients admitted to hospital were admitted to an inpatient bed from the emergency department within the eight-hour target.
  • Ontarians who require admission to an inpatient bed are spending an average of 16 hours in the emergency department before a bed becomes available, which is the longest that wait has been in six years.
  • The median wait time for long-term care home placement in Ontario in fiscal year 2017-2018 was 146 days, and the median wait time for home care was around six days for patients waiting at home.
  • Approximately one in three adults who went to the emergency department for mental health and addictions care had not previously accessed physician-based care for their mental illness
  • There was a 72-per-cent increase in emergency department visits and a 79-per-cent increase in in-patient admissions for children and youth with mental health issues over the last 11 years.
  • In October 2018, almost 16 per cent of days in hospital were spent by patients that were waiting for care in another setting.
  • Demographic projections suggest that the province will see an increase in its population by roughly 30 per cent by 2041.
  • By the year 2041, the GTA’s population is expected to grow by 41 per cent or by approximately 2.8 million people compared to the year 2017.

Read the complete report here: Full report

Trudeau concerned about possible education cuts by Ford government

SHAWN JEFFORDS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Feb 1st, 2019

Justin Trudeau says he’s not just concerned about possible cuts Premier Doug Ford could make to Ontarios education system as Canada’s prime minister — he’s also concerned as a father with children in the province’s schools.

Trudeau made the comments during a wide-ranging town hall meeting Thursday night at a Milton, Ont., high school. The prime minister said he was “deeply concerned” about comments Ford made Wednesday, refusing to rule out cuts to all-day kindergarten and potentially growing class sizes in the province.

Trudeau told the crowd that cuts to education won’t help the economy grow or provide opportunity for Canadians. But the cuts would also hit home on a personal level, he added.

“I’m also a parent who has three kids in the Ontario public school system,” he said, adding the potential cuts “worry me as a parent who’s got his youngest kid in all-day kindergarten right now.”

Ford said Wednesday that he isn’t guaranteeing that full-day kindergarten will continue beyond the next school year.

The program was introduced by former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty and was fully rolled out in 2014. It saves families thousands of dollars a year in child-care costs, but it costs the province $1.5-billion a year, at a time when the government is grappling with what it says is a $14.5 billion deficit.

Ford’s government is conducting education consultations, including about the possibility of removing class size caps for kindergarten and primary grades.

Trudeau urged people to send a message to the Ford government.

“I’m hoping that Ontarians … will make very, very clear that it would be a very bad political choice to cut opportunities for students and to cut education budgets,” he said.

Trudeau took questions from a crowd in the high school’s gymnasium while others watched from an overflow room nearby. Trudeau’s office said approximately 1,300 people attended the 90-minute event, which was the latest in a series of question-and-answer sessions held across the country.

The prime minister faced queries on a variety of subjects, including his environmental policy, immigration and political unrest in Venezuela.

Trudeau was asked twice what the federal government is doing to protect the jobs of autoworkers in Oshawa after General Motors announced it was closing its assembly plant there at the end of the year.

Trudeau said the news came as a “shock and a disappointment,” and the federal government will continue to fight for the jobs.

“We are also working with the unions and other potential investors and automakers to look at what a future could be for that particular plant,” he said.

The Greater Toronto Area is expected to be a key battleground in the fall federal election. Earlier Thursday afternoon, Trudeau campaigned with the party’s Milton candidate, former Olympic kayaking gold medallist Adam van Koeverden.

The pair surprised commuters at a transit station in the suburb west of Toronto, posing for pictures and chatting with people as they got off a train.

Van Koeverden, a star candidate for the Liberals, will face Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt, the popular incumbent in the Milton riding.

Leaked document reveals PC government’s plan to privatize health services: NDP

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Feb 1st, 2019

The Ontario NDP says it obtained a leaked internal document Wednesday night that shows the PC government is aiming to privatize health services, including hospitals and family doctors.

The draft bill reveals a plan to dissolve Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and create a “super agency” with a mandate to privatize, according to the NDP.

“While the Ford government is publicly pretending to consult on health care, in the back room, legislation designed to privatize our health care system is already being drawn up,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said at Queen’s Park Thursday.

“We’ve obtained internal documents, including a complete piece of government legislation that lays out the Ford government’s plan to create a new … super agency with a specific mandate to privatize our health services.”

Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed the document’s authenticity during a news conference Thursday afternoon, but said it was merely a draft and maintained the Ford government is “committed to our public health care system.”

She also criticized Horwath for what she called a “tired NDP tactic.”

“Since the NDP haven’t been in government for more than 24 years, they might not know how the legislative process works,” she said. “Drafts are drafts. It’s not been finalized. But our government is continuing to consult and listen to the people who plan and work on the front lines of our health care system.”

“I think it’s really very misleading for (Horwath) to have made the comments that she did with respect to a draft that has not been finalized. But we are committed to our public health care system.”

However, when asked she would not rule out the possibility of private hospitals.

Horwath said the PC government’s planned super agency will aim to replace public hospitals with private companies and privatize primary care, like family doctors, pediatricians and community health centres.

The agency would be able to seek bids for contracts from private companies that are able to provide health services, she added.

“As you privatize health services, our public health dollars go into the private pockets of individuals and corporations and shareholders instead of going to the improvement of the services that people should be able to rely on,” Horwath said.

She also cited private home care, which she said allows those with money to pay for caregivers while many are left with substandard care.

Elliott said there would be no changes to the OHIP system.

“We were elected to put the patient at the centre of a sustainable health care system built for the future,” she said. “We are committed to that transformation.”

LHINs plan and fund local health care and are meant to improve access for patients.

Read full document here: Leaked document


Something for everyone this weekend in the GTA

SAMANTHA KNIGHT AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Feb 1st, 2019

The first weekend of February is upon us and there are plenty of events taking place to help you celebrate. Below are some suggestions. This is also the last weekend for Winterlicious, which ends on Feb. 7. If you haven’t already, there is still time to make reservations.

As you head out and about this weekend, there are two TTC closures to be aware of. Scroll down for the details.


Walk for Memories
Thousands will be walking part of the underground PATH system Saturday morning, for the 29th annual Walk for Memories. The family-friendly two-kilometre walk begins at the Royal Bank Plaza at Union Station at 9 a.m. and ends at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. The event helps support people living with dementia, their caregivers and their families. All money raised goes to the Alzheimer Society of Toronto. This year’s fundraising goal is $680,000.

Super Bowl Sunday
Super Bowl LIII is upon us, and that means there will be no shortage of beer, pizza, wings and nachos at homes, restaurants, pubs and bars around the city. Tom Brady and his New England Patriots will take on the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The Patriots will be looking for their sixth Super Bowl title, while the Rams have only brought home the title once before. If you don’t want to stay at home to watch the game, there are parties taking place across the city, including the Official Super Bowl Viewing Party at Rebel starting at 2 p.m., the eighth annual Office Bowl Party at The Office Pub on John Street, The Big Game Buffet at 3030 Dundas Weststarting at 4 p.m. and the Super Bowl Patio Party at Hemingway’s in Yorkville. Please remember to drink responsibly and not drink and drive.

Winter Chocolate Show
If you have a sweet tooth, the first ever Winter Chocolate Show is the place for you this Saturday. The event is taking place at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse in downtown Toronto and features some of Canada’s and the world’s best bean-to-bar chocolate makers. Guests will be able to sample and purchase chocolate and take part in seminars and workshops to learn how the chocolate makers create their treats. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.

Toronto Tea Festival
Tea lovers will be taking over the Toronto Reference Library this weekend for the annual Toronto Tea Festival. During the event, guests will have the chance to sample hundreds of teas, shop for tea-related products, take selfies in front of the selfie wall, and enter a raffle. There will also be tea ceremonies from China and Japan, along with a Chinese tea ceremony workshop. The festival runs from Friday at noon to Sunday at 5 p.m.

Opening of outdoor ice rink in Brampton
Bring your skates for the grand opening of Brampton’s first covered outdoor ice rink on Sunday. The rink is on 143 acres of land, next to the Gore Meadows Community Centre and Library on The Gore Road. The party, which is from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., includes free hot chocolate, fire pits to roast marshmallows, ice carvings, a Smoke’s Poutinerie food truck and live music. A Brampton Transit bus will be available for people to warm up.

TTC closures

Partial closures on Line 1
Two partial subway closures will be taking place this weekend as crews install the automatic train control signalling system.

On Saturday, subways won’t be running on Line 1 between Spadina and Union stations. Museum Station will also be closed.

Then on Sunday, subway service will be shut down between St. Clair West and Union stations. As of 10 p.m., the closure area will extend to include King Station. Dupont and Museum stations will also be closed.

In both cases, shuttle buses will be running and Wheel-Trans service will be available upon request.

Regular service will resume at 6 a.m. Monday for both closures.

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