Health care in focus
By Mark Brown
Premier Mike Harris was in London yesterday, with a number of his ministers, as part of a three-day tour across the province to address the public's concerns about Ontario's health care system.
According to the premier's press secretary Bob Ried, the intention of the tour is to clear up misinformation and rhetoric about health care.
As part of this tour, Harris kicked off the renovations to the emergency department of the Westminster site of the London Health Sciences Center. He later toured the Dale Brain Injury Service, a community-based facility which provides services once only available in the United States.
John Dreyer, chief of emergency medicine at the Westminster site, said he has been waiting for a redeveloped emergency department for some time now. He added this new facility will replace the out-of-date and aging South Street site for LHSC which is scheduled to close.
"This state of the art department will be able to provide the best and most expedient care for all types of emergency patients," Dreyer said.
The premier told a press conference yesterday that he wants to give the people of London the finest health care possible. "I am back here today to tell you that our government agrees to be a part of the reform."
Harris added he wants to tell the whole story of health care reform. "It was a tough decision to close the South Street campus of the London Health Sciences Centre, but we made it because we wanted to invest in better services for the people of London."
Still, not everyone was happy with the government's health care reforms.
At one point during the press conference, Harris' comments were interrupted by a woman yelling from the audience, accusing Harris of ignoring a 97-year-old man, dying because he cannot get access to the medication he needs. The woman was quickly escorted from the conference.
Harris also said many of the problems with the health care system date back to the last time the Ontario Liberal Party was in office.
Liberal critic for colleges and universities, Lyn McLeod, said hospitals across Ontario are in a deficit situation. Harris has taken $800 million out of the hospitals' budgets, she added.
"[Harris] has used it to do band-aid work in visible areas of need, but you have to deal with the basic needs of the health care system," McLeod said.
"Mike Harris will go into the next election trying to deny everything he did as premier."
Tony Dagnone, chief executive officer for the LHSC, said the last time Harris was in London, he launched his health care platform. "This personally gives me great pleasure that he is taking a personal role that he is making sure that he offers his support when he is restructuring the health care system," Dagnone said.