Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was in Timmins today with NDP MPP Gilles Bisson to talk about the action that is needed to better Ontario’s hospitals and long-term care facilities. She spoke to media after touring the Timmins and District Hospital (TADH) with Gilles Bisson and talked about some of the issues hospitals in the province are facing.

“We have an overcrowding crisis across the province, and Timmins is one of the many hospitals that has been cut and shortchanged by the Wynne Liberals,” said Horwath. “The ER here is seeing double the number of patients it was designed to see. Staff are doing their absolute best, but it’s a struggle to keep up.”

The TADH was originally set up to have 20,000 patient visits a year. But times have changed since the ER opened 25 years ago and it now sees 40,000. Another issue the TADH is facing is a leaking roof that has cost the maternity ward 5 beds. Horwath praised the excellent staff at the TADH for coping with these difficulties, but says it doesn’t have to be this way.

“As we toured the facility, […] It was really apparent that the people here just do excellent work. Not withstanding the challenges that they face day in and day out, the staff are professional, cheerful and […] while they’re run off their feet they’re trying to make a bad situation work for the patients here. They still have a very positive attitude. But the unfortunate reality is they’re not getting the support they need from government.”

She went on to say it was unacceptable that a vital community hospital and one of the largest employers in Timmins has been asked to cut its budget year after year as the number of patients climb, more citizens are getting older, and the building infrastructure gets weaker. “The people of Timmins deserve so much better than this when it comes to their hospital,” Horwath said. “For too long families and seniors in Timmins have been forced to settle. They’ve been forced to settle for under funding and overcrowding [in] their hospitals, cuts to healthcare, and long wait times to get the care they need.”

Horwath spoke of the unconventional methods hospitals have had to turn to when dealing with too many patients. Though the TADH doesn’t have any patients receiving “hallway care” (when a hospital has no more rooms and can only help patients in the hallway), she did mention that some patients don’t have beds and are staying for days at a time in hospital gurneys, behind a makeshift curtain, sharing a bathroom with 10 other patients.  She praised the hospital staff as being the only reason the TADH hasn’t had to start implementing hallway care and emphasized that the staff are working tirelessly to make sure that kind of care never happens.

Horwath had some comments about how the other parties have handled healthcare issues like this in the past. “The last Conservative government closed 28 hospitals and fired 6,000 nurses,” she said. “The Liberals had 15 years to fix this, but instead Kathleen Wynne has made it worse with budget freezes and further cuts. […] If change was going to come, it would have come already.” She also spoke about Doug Ford’s plans to cut more than $6.1 billion in things like hospitals, kid’s schools and northern highways.

Horwath plans to invest in hospitals to cover the growing inflation, population growth and the unique needs of the community. She also has plans for long-term care facilities, especially in places like Timmins where the population is ageing and long-term care services are not improving. She cited the wait for long-term care in Timmins to be 3-5 years. “Our long-term care system is in disarray,” she said, listing issues like patient on patient violence, medicine shortages, and patients being sent to hospitals for bed sores and bruises.

Pharmacare is also something Horwath is focusing on. She wants to make the biggest change that Ontario health care has seen in decades by implementing a pharmacare plan. This plan would mean all prescription drugs would be paid for regardless of age, illness or situation. “Everyone that gets a prescription from a doctor should be able to fill that prescription,” she said. This would result in more people getting the medicine they need, and less people in hospitals and the ER.

Other issues Horwath touched on include the issue of wage growth in Ontario and how Ontario has seen the least amount of wage growth in the country in over a decade. She addressed schools that are in desperate need of repair in the province. And she spoke of the Indigenous communities and the inequitable education and healthcare that they receive. “Some would say that these are Federal responsibilities. But what we’re saying is if the Federal government is not prepared to […] deal with some of these systemic issues for First Nations Communities, then we’ll look at doing that at a provincial level and send the bill to Ottawa where it belongs,” she said. “We’ll never get to reconciliation if we refuse to be truthful about what continues to be problematic on Reserves.”

Horwath’s main message for the people of Timmins and for Ontario was that she’s promising change for the better when it comes to schools, hospitals and healthcare in the province.

The Ontario Provincial election is June 7th, 2018.