The Ontario NDP’s health care cuts are making its doctors rebellious and its residents nervous.
Besides slashing many services, Ontario’s health minister Ruth Grier has proposed a $250,000 limit pm the amount a doctor can bill the government. After reaching that limit, they will be paid only a portion of their usual amount for services rendered. Grier has also suggested that new doctors who refuse to practice in areas where there are shortages of physicians would only receive 25% of what they would usually get in government transfer fees. This percentage has since changed to 75%.
Doctors have reacted noisily to these salary restrictions saying that if their salary is decreased, so will their services. Members of the Ontario Medical Association have threatened that because of the proposed stipulations, they won’t work at “inconvenient times.” This could affect emergency room or baby delivery service. In a frightening statement to many families, one physician said that many of his colleagues are refusing to provide obstetrics.
“I already know of offices where family doctors have posted signs saying they won’t provide obstetrics any longer,” said Dr. Tom Dickson, of the Ontario Medical Association.
Though doctors have reacted loudly to the NDP’s health reform, the real cuts are not aimed at them. Observers note that over the past two years, the government has slashed essential services which immediately affect society’s more helpless members.
Emergency wards have been reduced and due to a bed shortage there are longer waits for surgery, and shorter recuperation stays. As a result of cutbacks in residency programmes, there is a scarcity of doctors who specialize in care for premature babies. The government has also stopped subsidizing many over-the-counter prescriptions for the elderly.
20 nursing homes have been closed in the last two years and 4.300 seniors are on the waiting list for spots in non-private homes. 116 provincial associations which aid the mentally handicapped have had their budgets slashed. The government has also proposed cutting half of the beds for the mentally ill in Ontario over the next ten years with no back-up services in effect.
Most recently, Grier introduced legislation which would give the government sweeping powers to determine “at the stroke of the pen” who is entitled to receive which services and when they may receive it. This power alarms many groups who support the more helpless elements of society. They fear that only the fittest will be considered worth treating.
“They have not defined medical necessity,” said OMA vice-president Michael Wyman. “It leaves it up to a faceless bureaucrat…to determine what is medically necessary.”
Pro-life lobbyists note that many of the government’s cost-cutting measures are aimed at the elderly, mentally handicapped, mentally ill and unborn. They also point out that, while many essential services are being drastically reduced, the government continues to increase funding to train abortionists, expand abortion services and pay for abortions.
Health Minister Grier defends her moves by saying she is “restructuring” a fragmented system.”
Some Ontarians feel that this “restructuring” is excluding many of the province’s weaker members.