Ford, Trudeau agree health care reform ‘urgent’: Prime Minister
Queen’s Park and Ottawa are on the same page when it comes to the « urgent » need for health care reform, Premier Doug Ford insists.
Coming out of an hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, Ford stressed that both levels of government recognize improvements are needed for a system tattered by the pandemic.
« We agree that the status quo is not working, » the prime minister told reporters outside his office.
Although Trudeau did not speak to the media after the meeting, he stressed in advance how well his federal Liberals have cooperated with Ford’s Progressive Conservatives throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
« I know Canadians want to see the levels of government working together, » the prime minister said during a brief photo op.
« And I’m still looking for that and I really appreciate your welcome here, » he said, congratulating Ford on his June 2 re-election.
Sources with knowledge of the talks said the two leaders did not discuss the Canada Health Act, which requires provinces and territories to provide publicly accessible services « at no direct cost » in order to receive billions of dollars in federal transfer payments for health care.
Trudeau, who was in Kitchener earlier in the day, had requested the meeting this week.
The confab comes amid the Conservatives’ controversial Bill 7, which is expected to pass on Wednesday.
It aims to free up hospital beds for an expected winter surge of flu and COVID-19 by sending more elderly hospital patients who are doing well enough to be discharged to nursing homes not on their favorite list of five establishments.
Ford has defended how quickly his government will pass the “More Beds, Better Care Act” – just 13 days after its introduction and without public hearings or detailed study by a legislative committee.
This is the first phase of conservative healthcare reforms that could eventually see more private delivery of publicly funded medical procedures.
Critics warn that Bill 7 will force older people to leave their families in their final months of life or move into homes without adequate resources to care for them, with anyone refusing to leave the hospital may face uninsured costs of $1,800 per day.
« We so urgently need to make the change, » Ford said of the legislation, noting that there are 6,000 patients occupying hospital beds who no longer need acute care, including nearly 2,000 are waiting for nursing home beds for which there are long waiting lists. .
The government hopes to free up those beds to make room for COVID-19 and other patients who are crowding emergency rooms or waiting for surgeries late in the pandemic.
But after nearly a fortnight of questions about the fees, Ford has signaled for the first time that the high uninsured fees for people who refuse to consider nursing homes or other post-hospital care are too high, saying that « $1,800 is absolutely ridiculous ».
“We will have to work on the cost,” he admitted.
Acting provincial Liberal leader John Fraser said Ford’s assertion that the hospital crisis is « urgent » enough to warrant the Bill 7 measures ignores the facts.
« We’ve known it for four or five months…and now there’s a crisis, and they’re using a very brutal instrument, » Fraser said, noting that the average length of stay in a nursing home is 18 months.
« Can you imagine being sent to a place that you…don’t know or are not comfortable with or haven’t checked out? » They don’t have enough staff? They don’t have a good record?
Ford, who has called for increased federal health transfers, praised Trudeau for « always wanting to work with prime ministers. »
« I was very blunt with him. I said, ‘I’m just one of 13 prime ministers.’ We need to get the other 12 provincial and territorial premiers on board,” he said.
“And there’s always a deal to be made… we all strive to provide the best health care system for the people of Ontario and Canada to the best of our abilities. I am very, very confident after a great meeting.
Premiers, who maintain that Ottawa funds only 22% of health care, are calling for that percentage to be increased to 35%.
But the federal government says its share is closer to one-third of the costs when the increased taxing powers granted to the provinces are taken into account.
Along with pressures on health care, the Prime Minister and Premier discussed labor shortages, immigration and housing.
Although the two leaders have met several times over the past four years, this was Trudeau’s first official visit to Queen’s Park since 2018.
It was in stark contrast to that period loaded with supporters – Trudeau essentially ran against Ford in the 2019 federal election – with the prime minister acknowledging that the two leaders share the same voters.
« In Ontario, we’ve always had that balance, » he said, referring to the long-standing political tradition known as the Underhill Balance Theory, which posits that Ontario voters prefer different parties. in power both provincially and federally.
Ford said a constituent once told him it was because « they were watching each other. »
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