05/20/2014 09:20 EDT | Updated 07/20/2014 05:59 EDT

Ontario Election 2014: Horwath Says NDP Government Would Cut ER Wait Times


TORONTO - Ontario's Liberal government wasted millions of dollars in a fruitless effort to reduce overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath charged Tuesday as she unveiled a plan to cut ER wait times in half if her party wins the June 12 election.

The Liberals spent too much money on bureaucrats and not enough on front-line care as they tried to reduce wait times in various areas of the health-care system, added Horwath.

"They put a whole bunch of money into wait times for home care, but a nice chunk of that money went to the administrators of (Community Care Access Centres), went to the executive directors getting close to 50 per cent salary increases," she said.

"They seem to waste a lot of money at the top — look at the Ornge air ambulance as a perfect example — but the money never seems to focus in on the front lines, and that's where our program is different."

A New Democrat government would hire 250 new nurse practitioners to work in emergency rooms, create 1,400 more long-term care beds and open 50 new 24-hour-a-day family health clinics, all in an effort to help ease pressure on emergency room wait times, said Horwath.

"The solutions that we're bringing to the table are not about hospital budgets," she said. "They're about reducing the pressure on the hospitals. They're about finding ways to avoid unnecessary wait times by providing the right type of care for people."

The NDP would also implement a five-day home care guarantee, said Horwath, noting patients discharged from hospitals who need the service currently wait anywhere from a week to a month before getting care at home.

"The Liberals are incapable of making any appropriate investments in our health-care system," she said. "Our approach is targeted: get rid of the wait list, and that allows some air through the system and you can get those five-day wait time guarantees in place."

The NDP's plan to reduce ER wait times would cost about $205 million in the first two years and grow to $215 million in the third and fourth years, added Horwath.

After making her announcement outside the Ontario legislature, with the so-called "hospital row" of University Avenue health-care facilities as her backdrop, Horwath headed to London, which is Health Minister Deb Matthew's riding, to again slam the Liberals' record on health care.

"It was under Deb Matthew's watch that we've seen the Ornge air ambulance debacle, that we watched (CEO) Dr. (Chris) Mazza buy himself a speed boat on our health-care dime," she said outside the London Health Sciences Centre. "This is unacceptable when people are literally sleeping on the floors of a psychiatric emergency ward ... and I think Ms. Matthews personifies what's gone wrong with the health-care system in this province."

Horwath also promised the NDP campaign platform would be released "very shortly," and would be fully costed out.

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