Toronto (Dec. 1): Outpatient-based cardiac care in Ontario is on the brink of collapse due to drastic and ill-considered budget cuts by the Wynne government. These cuts, imposed unilaterally by the Wynne government in February, April and October without input from the Ontario Association of Cardiologists (OAC), have begun to damage the infrastructure that supports access to outpatient cardiac care in Ontario. This will risk lives, put further pressure on hospital emergency rooms and drive up costs, while making access to care more difficult for Ontario’s cardiac patients.
Over the last 20 years, cardiologists have built and maintained almost all of the world-class clinical infrastructure for outpatient cardiac care in Ontario. Our provincial population has grown every year for the last 5 years and the average age has increased as the post war baby boom population matures. More and more Ontarians are now at the age where they need cardiac care but the government is actively slashing funding. Cardiac care budgets have been cut by as much as 20% in the last year alone and OAC members are wondering how they will be able to be able to keep their facilities open.
“As front-line health care providers treating very sick people, our first concern is for patients,” said OAC President Dr. James Swan. “We are concerned that Ontario’s cardiac care infrastructure will no longer be there for our patients in the coming months and years. We have communicated these concerns to Premier Kathleen Wynne and to Health and Long-Term Care Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins, and have shown them alternate approaches that would provide better and more cost-effective care.”
Heart disease is the #1 killer of Ontarians and congestive heart failure, one of several types of heart disease, is the single commonest reason that patients need to go to emergency rooms and be admitted to hospital. Heart failure can often be treated in an outpatient setting, as long as the facilities and infrastructure to provide this care are available. Not only is outpatient treatment better and more comfortable for the patient, it is also several orders of magnitude less expensive. The facilities that can provide this care are the same ones that the Wynne government’s unilateral budget cuts are threatening to force to close.
In response to the cuts, the OAC recently surveyed its members and asked them to consider what to do next. Cardiologists are uniformly angered and disappointed by the Liberal government’s lack of a coherent approach to health care management and a large majority of the survey’s respondents favoured the consideration of some form of job action. “It’s not that anybody wants to stop seeing patients”, said Dr. Swan. “It’s that our members are so squeezed by these cumulative cuts they feel some kind of dramatic action is needed to force the ministry to engage rationally before more damage is done.”
“Our members are sounding a clarion call to the Wynne government. Stop trying to balance your budget on the backs of cardiac patients. Stop taking for granted the clinics, staff and facilities that make outpatient cardiac care possible for Ontario’s cardiac patients. Work with the OAC to develop and implement innovative clinical programs to improve access to outpatient cardiac services. This will avoid the need for many ER visits and hospitalizations, and save the people of Ontario health care dollars while providing them with better care” said Dr. Swan.
OAC members comprise more than half of the province’s cardiologists, and include world-class specialists in all aspects of cardiac care. The OAC asks that individuals learn more by visiting its website and adding their names to the online petition that demands the government engage the OAC in helping find affordable solutions to cardiac care.
For more information, please visit: www.ontarioheartdoctors.ca.
Executive Director, Ontario Association of Cardiologists
Tim Holman, 416-487-0054