Stop the presses!

In case you missed it, Health and Long-Term Care minister Tony Clement on Monday released a “comprehensive opinion survey” that detailed Ontarians’ priorities for the future direction of health care.
And the results of this so-called “Dialogue on Health” initiative were, well, earth-shattering:
Thousands of Ontarians want the government to hire more doctors and nurses?
Thousands want the provincial government to reduce waiting lists.
Thousands want the government to provide improved access to early diagnostic tools to catch illnesses earlier.
Repeat after me: Duh.
And thousands want the government to refocus the health care system to keep people well in the first place.
All together now . . . duh!
Geez, what’s next? A Ministry of the Environment survey that finds most Ontarians want clean air to breathe and water to drink. Or a Ministry of Education one that reveals a majority of Ontarians want their kids to be able to read and write by the time they graduate from high school?
Who knows how much this survey cost taxpayers when it was mailed out to four million Ontario households last July and August? And all for what? To find out something Mr. Clement, with his $300,000-a-year “press secretary,” should have figured out for himself.
“The people of Ontario had the chance to be health minister for a day when filling out this survey, and they made some tough choices about the future of health care,” he said in releasing the survey results.
Hmmm. More doctors and nurses instead of fewer. Reduced waiting lists instead of longer ones. Improved access to early diagnostic tools instead of less. Yep, tough choices, all right.
But there’s more. “For the first time, users across the system have made their opinions known and their voices are loud and clear,” Mr. Clement continued. “Ontarians want accessibility, accountability, and efficiency.”
Uh, what was that word again? Oh yeah, duh!
So what’s missing from this fine example of public consultation? Well, the $64,000 question, or is that $6.4 billion, is just how the government plans to deliver more doctors and nurses, reduce waiting lists, and provide improved access to early diagnostic tools?
Fortunately, Mr. Clement, who may be premier of Ontario by late March, has a plan. The ministry next will ask “health-care providers and key stakeholders’ organizations for their reaction to the findings, including recommendations on how to address priorities identified by consumers.”
The ministry also will hold a series of discussion groups across the province with front-line providers in February and March “to gather their input and advice.”
Who wants to bet now that these people all will agree that more doctors and nurses, reduced waiting lists, and improved access to early diagnostic tools are a good thing.
More important, who wants to bet the government, in the end, uses all this consultation and survey results to justify a move to privatized health care, innocently stating it’s what “Ontarians want.”
Somehow, though, I doubt the survey made that connection clear.
How convenient. Or am I just being cynical again?

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