Healthcare spending accounts for roughly 50% of the Government of Ontario’s budget, and for good reason. New technologies and new treatments are resulting in longer life-spans, better quality of life, and opportunities for Ontarians who previously were left behind. At the same time, the number of seniors in the province is dramatically increasing, adding pressure to our hospitals and healthcare clinics.
When it first came to office, the McGuinty government had ambitious plans to strengthen healthcare delivery in the province, and to replace aging healthcare infrastructure neglected by the Harris/Eves governments. Much to their chagrin, they were saddled with a hidden $5.6 billion deficit by their predecessors. The McGuinty government, faced with this reality, made the right choice, if not a politically expedient one, and brought in the Health Premium. The result of this move has been tremendous. Construction is moving forward or complete for more than 100 major projects at hospitals across the province, and wait times in several key areas have been dramatically reduced; hip replacement wait times are down by 53% (down 185 days); knee replacement wait times are down by 60% (down 262 days); and cataract surgery wait times are down by 63% (down 195 days).
In Cornwall, these investments translate to waits for cataract surgery being down 26 days or 17%, CT scans down 32 days or 68%, hips down 190 days or 55%, all over the past five years.
The Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH) has also benefited from the addition of a new CT scanner, new birthing suites, and renovations to Critical Care and Emergency, and we are now witnessing the full redevelopment of the hospital. While much credit must go to hospital CEO Jeanette Despatie and her team, I know they would agree with me that these developments would not have happened without the advocacy of MPP Jim Brownell.
I had the privilege of serving as Jim’s Executive Assistant at Queen’s Park while much of the work on the CCH was under way. It was a monumental task. Faced with hundreds of communities in need of increased services and hospital redevelopments, it was apparent the Ministry of Health would not be able to undertake every project all at once. Cornwall’s inclusion in the first round of development was directly the result of Jim’s advocacy.
Around Queen’s Park, Jim has a reputation as the nicest guy you can’t say no to. That reputation was largely built through his advocacy on the healthcare file. Jim knew the name and face of every staffer in the health ministry, and made sure they all knew him, and his community’s needs.
While I was not involved in the advocacy leading to the recent announcement of $5 million being added to the Cornwall Community Hospital’s annual base funding, I do know that, in light of the recession, the government is being even more cautious in terms of how it allocates the taxpayers’ dollars. That this increase is happening is a direct result of Jim’s success at communicating the needs of his community to the Minister of Health.
Kudos to Jim and his team for this latest success, and I offer my appreciation to Jeanette Despatie and to all the hard-working men and women who continue to deliver quality healthcare to the people of Cornwall and area.