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TORONTO, Ont. – The signal in today’s Throne Speech that the Ontario Liberals intend to proceed on a model where hospitals compete for patients and funding—being called a ‘lose-lose’ policy in Britain by a major report on market-based health reforms there—is not good news for Ontarians, says the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

The Ontario Liberal plan to have Ontario hospitals compete for patients based on who can provide care and surgeries more cheaply is a retread of the market-based health care reforms introduced over eight years ago in Britain. Those reforms, concludes Civitas—a respected policy think tank in a report released on March 1, 2010—are increasing costs, providing few benefits, and are fueling debt in the National Health Service (NHS).

OCHU president Michael Hurley says “the Ontario Liberals would be well advised to back away from these types of market-based reforms that are failing in Britain.

The Civitas report concludes that, ‘for now, the available evidence indicates that the NHS may have found itself in a lose-lose situation—taking on the extra costs of competition without reaping the benefits.’ “Competition is not working for patients in Britain. Why would we want to experiment with it here?” Asks Hurley.

In addition to providing health care based on competition and consumer pricing, the Liberal plan would also result in some procedures being cut from local hospitals. Patients in smaller communities would lose local access to some services and have to travel outside their area to access health care, says OCHU president Michael Hurley.

“From what we know about the failure of these types of health care reforms, Ontarians should be very concerned about the Liberals’ direction on health care,” says Hurley, who also points out “that Ontarians are not asking for these reforms and have never been consulted on the changes.”

Liberal MPPs—particularly those from rural and northern communities—may find that the next 18 months heading into the provincial election “is more unsettling than they had anticipated,” says Hurley. “Hospital and other health care workers represented by OCHU are not supportive of the reforms and will be aggressively opposing them. Unfortunately, this government appears to be on a collision course with hospital staff who care passionately about the quality of care and services.

Hurley points out that Ontario has the most efficient hospital system in Canada based on length of stay, staff per patient and beds to population, despite federal underfunding relative to other provinces. “Hospital workers will defend that service because we love it,” says Hurley.

For more information, contact:

Michael Hurley President, OCHU    416-884-0770