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E-Health, Hospital Operations, Physician Billings, Psychiatric Hospitals and Supportive Housing

Archived Statement

E-Health, Hospital Operations, Physician Billings, Psychiatric Hospitals and Supportive Housing

Statement from Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

"I would like to thank the Auditor General for her report. 

Over the past decade, Ontario has worked to modernize the way health records are stored, shared and accessed. Our goal is to build a system where a patient's records follow them as they move through the health system. As one of Canada's pioneers of electronic health records, we invested heavily and early in information technology because we saw how digital solutions could improve patient care.

While the Auditor General does acknowledge that the scale of implementing electronic health records across Ontario is an enormous task, she confirmed that a significant number of community-based physicians have adopted electronic medical records, and that our government has made significant progress since the last audit.

While, like other jurisdictions, we have had challenges implementing an electronic health record system, a recent report by the Premier's Business Advisor, Ed Clark, noted that $900 million in annual health care benefits are being realized. Canada Health Infoway (CHI) has also estimated that since 2007 digital health systems have produced an estimated $16 billion in benefits nationally, and that Ontario's share of that is over $5.7 billion.

We will continue working on improving, adapting and implementing the digital health care system with the top priority of protecting patient information and increasing quality of care in Ontario. In the near future we will be announcing the next steps of our digital health strategy that will continue modernizing our system further improving patient access, connectivity and experience."

Hospital Operations

"Ontarians deserve access to high-quality health care when they need it and as close to home as possible. Patients come first and every decision we make is centred on helping people in their everyday lives by providing high-quality, convenient care.

We appreciate the Auditor General's recommendations and recognize that while the specific cases mentioned are unacceptable and need to be addressed, Ontario's health care system is better today than when we came into office.

We have increased our investment in the system each and every year, allowing us to treat more patients, provide better care and reduce wait times to some of the shortest in the country. The results speak for themselves. More than a million more people -- and 94 per cent of all Ontarians -- now have access to a primary-care provider. Wait times are down, with both the Fraser Institute and Wait Time Alliance consistently ranking Ontario as having some of the shortest in Canada. Health Quality Ontario also notes that people are seeing doctors more quickly upon arriving in emergency departments, with overall wait times being shorter as well.

Ontarians can be proud of their world-class health care system and we are continuously working to make it even better. As part of this year's Budget, we announced $345 million more for hospitals across the province, helping expand access to services, keep wait times low and increase funding for procedures like hip and knee replacements. Building on that, we just announced another $140 million to help hospitals respond to growing demand. Together with other initiatives, this new funding will help make our health care system even better."

Physician Billings

"We have worked hard over the past decade to provide access to a family doctor when Ontarians need them most. Our health care philosophy of primary care first has helped achieve this, with 94 per cent of all Ontarians now having access to a primary care provider.

There are currently tools in place to review and investigate discrepancies in physician billings, including routine monitoring of anomalies. However, there are opportunities to enhance these oversight measures. 

Ontario needs to work collaboratively with all of our health care partners, the OMA included, to ensure that every decision we make advances the system and enhances the service and quality patients receive. That is why we have been working hard over the last year and a half to find the appropriate balance to ensure physicians are among the highest paid in Canada, while also investing in important services to increase quality of care.

I take the recommendations in this report very seriously, and I look forward to working with our partners in health care to directly address the Auditor General's findings." 

Psychiatric Hospitals

"Ontarians living with mental illness and addiction need to be supported throughout their life. Families, caregivers and advocates have played an important role to raise awareness and make more appropriate treatment options available. Our government is focused on finding solutions and improving access and quality of care for people living with mental illness and addiction. While we already have a strong record of investing in mental health supports, we agree with the Auditor General that more can be done.

Our government has been making investments to improve access, reduce wait times and fill gaps across the system. Recent investments include additional funding for the four speciality psychiatric hospitals, a new mental health and addictions centre in London, more mental health beds in Barrie, and a new mental health service centre in Toronto. We have also created a new dedicated mental health branch, which the Auditor General calls, 'a step in the right direction.' Taken together, these initiatives continue to support our psychiatric hospitals, increasing access to care and helping patients get the treatment they need.

To support these investments our government is working with the Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council and listening to their advice on how to build a stronger, more equitable mental health system in Ontario. We agree with the Auditor General that a shortage of supportive mental health housing means some patients are staying in hospitals longer than necessary. That is exactly why we are in the midst of creating 1,000 new supportive housing units across the province. New units will give our most vulnerable access to the safe, stable and affordable housing they need and lower the burden on psychiatric hospitals.

We also agree with the Auditor General that it is unacceptable for nurses and other employees to feel unsafe at work. They are on the front-line every day, providing high-quality care in difficult circumstances and their safety needs to be the top priority. Together with the Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn, we have formed a leadership table that consists of senior executives from the health sector, both ministries, front-line workers, patient advocates and experts. We are developing an action plan to make hospitals safer. We need to prevent violence before it starts and this work will help make that happen.

The people of Ontario deserve access to mental health support services across the province and we are confident our mental health strategy Open Minds, Healthy Minds will ensure all Ontarians living with mental illness have access to the right care when they need it. We thank the Auditor General for her thoughts and recommendations and look forward to incorporating them moving forward."

Supportive Housing

"Our government recognizes that housing is a crucial and cost-effective option to meet our homelessness and poverty reduction commitments. While we already have a strong record of investing in housing, including mental health supportive housing, we agree with the Auditor General that more can be done.

A shortage of supportive mental health housing means it is taking too long for some patients to get access to the help they need. As the Auditor notes, this imbalance between current supply and demand is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. That is exactly why we have increased funding by 46 per cent over the last decade and are in the midst of creating an additional 1,000 new units - to bring the total to 16,070 government-funded supportive housing units currently in use for people living with mental illness and addiction across the province. While this is a positive step forward, our government is committed to doing more. The Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy (LTAHS) supports Ontario's Mental Health Strategy to contribute new supportive housing units with the goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2025. Once complete, the most vulnerable Ontarians will have access to safe, stable and affordable housing -- a critical part of their recovery and mental wellness. 

We accept the Auditor General's recommendations and will work together with government and community partners to reduce wait lists and ensure that people who need supportive housing most receive it."

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