March 2nd, 2016

NDP demands Wynne government invest in healthcare after budget leaves out Northern Ontario

After meeting with Thunder Bay health care professionals, Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas, the NDP’s critic for Health and Long Term Care, demanded the Wynne government stop denying that its 2016 budget will result in continued cuts to healthcare, and increased prescription drug costs for seniors.

“Patients and families in Thunder Bay and across Northern Ontario are seeing cuts to hospital services that are impacting Northern families.  They are experiencing overcrowding in emergency departments, and almost continuous gridlock at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre,” Gélinas‎ said.

“I was hopeful that the provincial budget would start to address these problems, and improve health care in the North.  Because shorter wait times and more patient care are priorities for Ontarians, and for families here in Thunder Bay.  Unfortunately, the new Liberal budget will not fix the damage that’s been done to our health care system.”

The 2016 Ontario budget could still mean more cuts for hospitals.

“What the government announced on budget day does not even match inflation rates.  So in reality, hospitals will continue to be squeezed. And patients will feel the impact,” Gélinas‎ said.  “I’m also hearing from seniors across Ontario and especially here in the North, who are worried about how they’ll pay for prescription drugs this summer.

The budget says that, starting on August 1st, the Liberals will nearly double the cost of prescription drugs for most seniors – with no consultation and no warning.  Starting this summer, the Wynne government wants to make seniors earning over $19,300 a year, pay more for their prescriptions.  One in three Ontario Seniors require 10 or more prescriptions to stay healthy, independent, and out of hospital. 

“A senior living on just over $19,300 a year is not a rich senior, by any means.  They have to struggle to make ends meet. To pay for hydro. And to keep a roof over their head.  Making it more expensive for seniors to pay for their drugs will force many seniors to save money that they need for other basics. Like food,” Gélinas‎ said.  “This short-sighted, behind-closed-doors decision could actually cost more in the end, if more seniors end up back in hospital because they fall ill from failing to buy their medications.  Seniors deserve our respect and shouldn’t have to pay more for the prescriptions they need,” Gélinas said.

Gélinas addressed serious public health issues in First Nation communities. 

“The underfunding of health care, mental health, and public infrastructure by the federal government has created a crisis,” Gélinas said.  “The Ontario government needs to step up to the plate and partner on finding solutions immediately, and work together instead of passing the buck and talking about federal and provincial jurisdictions when it comes to this health care crisis.”