NEWS
02/10/2012 04:00 EST | Updated 04/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Health group sounds alarm over anticipated Drummond report

TORONTO - A public health advocacy group is sounding the alarm that billions of dollars in health-care cuts are coming after the highly anticipated Drummond report.

The Ontario Health Coalition says cutbacks are being planned despite "urgent and unmet" health needs.

The group says restructuring plans contain serious costing errors and inadequacies that put Ontario's most vulnerable patients at risk.

They accuse the government of manufacturing a crisis to justify major restructuring on the horizon.

But the coalition says evidence shows that Ontario's health spending is near to the lowest in the country.

They say if a loophole is closed in the Employer Health Tax, a "more equitable funding system" could generate $2.4 billion per year to help alleviate some of the cost pressures in the health system.

The long-awaited Drummond Commission report on reforming Ontario's government to trim a $16 billion deficit will be released Feb. 15.

Former TD Bank economist Don Drummond was hired by the Liberals to review all government programs and services and find ways of lowering costs.

Drummond told Premier Dalton McGuinty last fall that Ontario would have to cap the overall increase in government spending at one per cent a year until the deficit is eliminated in 2017-18.

The Liberals hope to cap the growth in health sending at three per cent, but it eats up 42 per cent of every dollar so that could mean cuts of up to 30 per cent in some ministries.

Drummond has also mused about eliminating OHIP coverage of some medical procedures and operations, and warned many of his several hundred recommendations will be unpopular.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says it's time for the Liberals to stop hiding behind Drummond and start taking real steps to reduce the size and cost of government.

Hudak wants a legislated public sector wage freeze to save money and says the government should also shut down local health integration networks and the Ontario Power Authority.