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The Toronto Sun
Monday, September 17, 2007
Byline: BY JAMES WALLACE, SUN MEDIA
Ontario’s health-care system hasn’t gotten better over the past four years, despite a massive $9-billion infusion of new cash, voters believe.
An SES Research/Sun Media poll found 69% of those surveyed believe the province’s health-care system is the same or worse than it was when the Liberals came to power in 2003.
The poll found 51% believe little has changed within the health-care system over that time, 18% think health services are worse, 24% believe the health-care system has improved and 7% are unsure.
“When you look at the trade-off between those who think things have improved and those who think they’ve worsened, it’s not really a big improvement,” said SES Research president, Nik Nanos.
“Considering the amount of extra cash that’s been plowed into Ontario’s health-care system, I think for average Ontarians they’re more likely to feel things have stayed the same.”
30% SPENDING INCREASE
Dalton McGuinty promised to make health care a priority during the last election and to deal with problems ranging from overcrowded and understaffed hospitals to wait lists for medical procedures and clogged emergency rooms.
Health-care spending has increased 30% to more than $49 billion since 2003 but that hasn’t translated into perceived results or political credit for the Liberals.
“What this research suggests is that even if the Liberals go around and trumpet all the extra money they’ve put into the health-care system, there’s a sizeable portion of Ontarians who don’t believe it’s made a real difference,” Nanos said.
Conversely, about one in four younger voters, who are the least likely to actually use the health-care system, believe things have improved.
“Demographically, probably the biggest gain for the Liberals on this front is among younger voters, those under 29 years of age,” Nanos said.
Voters aged 30 to 59 were the most likely to believe the province’s health-care system is the same or worse.
Meanwhile, 34% of Ontarians who are 60 years or older — and most likely to use health-care services — were the most likely to believe the province’s health-care system has improved.
“That actually might be the best indicator of what’s happening because they’re users of the health-care system,” Nanos said.
But with voters unconvinced health-care investments are paying dividends, convincing voters public money will be well spent over the next four years may be a challenge for all three parties.
In this campaign, McGuinty has promised to increase the health-care budget by another $8.7 billion over the next four years, including money to reduce the number of Ontarians without family doctors by 500,000, to hire 9,000 new nurses, spend more to reduce wait times and improve emergency room service.
Conservative leader John Tory has pledged $8.5 billion and his health-care plans include eliminating the $2.5 billion Liberal health-care premium, spending $540 million on new electronic health records to reduce prescription errors and modernize medical record-keeping in the province, and $400 million to recruit more doctors and nurses.
NDP leader Howard Hampton has promised to phase out the health-care tax and give low- and middle-income families a $450 tax rebate.