Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is defending its efforts to offer faster access to counselling for addicts, as hospitals express concern about the scope of its plan to triage patients with the help of centralized programs and electronic monitoring.
Premier Doug Ford wants to cap-and-trade carbon pricing — a program that allows provinces to continue monitoring CO2 levels — and wind it down through a combination of market forces and the expectation of energy savings.
Ontario’s Liberals announced that they would scrap cap-and-trade last month, saying it cost the province more than $2 billion in revenue. They also said the program had been unable to attract low-carbon fuel producers or savings-oriented consumers to offset the cost of some fuel sources.
Late last week, Ford announced he would no longer enforce a three-year prohibition on the provision of social assistance benefits to people on drug addiction treatment programs and other support services.
However, Ford did not announce an end to the program’s prohibition on covering CO2 emissions, meaning that many people won’t be covered.
To address this, Ford said earlier this week that he would immediately bring in electronic “substance use disorder identification” tests, or SUDTs, for those abusing alcohol and some illicit drugs.
However, as a paper released by the University of Toronto’s Health Policy Research Network in late November noted, it will take months for the tests to be rolled out and for technicians to be trained in the new approach to monitoring patients.
The coalition said it was “alarmed by the scope and timeline of this new policy,” given that the number of laboratory cardiologists who could potentially assess patients would be significantly reduced by the Ministry of Health.
It also said that the move would make it very difficult for such patients to leave detox programs in time to get into a SUDT program, especially when the exams can take more than two hours.
However, Ontario’s Tory government said they had developed the program in consultation with “a range of stakeholders.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford releases a statement on the future of a cap-and-trade system. Ontario Premier Doug Ford releases a statement on the future of a cap-and-trade system. SEE MORE VIDEOS
“We recognize we will need to deal with a greater number of patients than we anticipated and we are prepared to do that quickly to ensure our health care system can meet that need,” said Ayaz Ansari, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s director of public information, in an email.
During their time in power, the Liberals often chided premiers from Ontario’s federal cousins — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals — for at times touting provincial policies to let patients skip doctor visits, visit pharmacists to fill prescriptions or make appointments when a Liberal politician made it clear that in doing so, those politicians tended to leave smaller provinces without good doctors and other health care workers available to help.
This time, neither the federal government nor the provincial Tories said they were disappointed by the state of health care across the country, but appeared keen to defend their government’s intention to make better use of what is already a complicated and shifting system.
Dr. Robert Eisner, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, said in an email that the physicians’ group is looking forward to learning more about Ford’s plan and that it supports an individual-based approach, “rather than a triage,” as happened under the Liberals.
Dr. Environics Capital Markets Inc. provided poll results requested by The Washington Post.
The Washington Post’s Ashley Gold contributed to this report.