Vincent Ball wrote in "Liberals pulled province from brink of two-tier health care: minister" (Branford Expositor, Jan.22, 2011):
"The province's health-care system was on life support prior to the election of the Liberal government, says Ontario's health minister.
"I think we were on the brink of two-tier health care," Deb Matthews told The Expositor in an exclusive interview this week during a visit to the city. "People simply couldn't get access to care. They couldn't find a family doctor.
"They were waiting far, far, far too long for cataract, hips and knees surgery."
The minister said the government got to work.
"We said this is not acceptable," she said.
"Everybody's paying their taxes and if they're not getting health care in return, they're going to go elsewhere. Our universal health care was in jeopardy. There was a lot of talk of people wanting to pay their way to the front of the line."
First, the government started to measure wait times and invest to bring down those times, she said.
"When it comes to family physicians, it was outrageous," she said.
"The stories that we would hear as MPPs of people desperate to find a family doctor. And the sicker you were, the harder is was to get a doctor. That was a real perversion in the system."
Now, as a result of government initiatives, almost 95% of Ontarians are attached to primary care. And, while parts of the province still have problems, generally speaking Ontario residents are doing a lot better, she said.
"There are pockets where it's still a challenge but we now have something called Healthcare Connect so you can go online and get linked with a physician, a nurse practitioner," she said. "We have more allied health professionals, which takes some of the pressure off physicians and we're graduating more doctors.
"In fact, by 2013, we will have doubled the number of physicians graduating every year."
With respect to hospital finances, Matthews said the province is in a much healthier position than it was prior to the Liberals taking over.
"Provincewide, we're pretty balanced. We have surpluses in some and deficits in others," she said. "We said to the hospitals you've got to work with what you've got.
"There was a lot of pain associated with that, a lot of hospitals were worried but, in fact, they were able to work with it and, so, now, generally speaking, they were able to be in balance."
The government has been able to change the mindset of hospitals, said the minister, adding that there used to be this thinking that the government would bail them out if they ran deficits.
"Well, we're not doing that anymore," she said. "We're working with them through the local health integration networks, which have been critical part of this partnership in hammering out agreements with local hospitals."
Matthews was in Brantford to meet with senior administrative staff at Brantford General Hospital, tour BGH, meet with staff and learn more about a new surgical technique being used at the hospital for knee replacement.
The hospital, which has been recognized by the Ontario Hospital Association, has enjoyed a string of successes in the past 18 months.
Matthews thanked and congratulated the staff at BGH, which she called a "beacon in the health-care sector."
There is a lot BGH can teach the rest of the system, she said.
"BGH is in a very, very good position." Brant MPP Dave Levac said the provincial government has forced hospitals to better handle their finances and is rewarding those that show fiscal responsibility.
"In the past all they did was simply say that at the end of the year the government is going to bail us out," Levac said. "And it just means that we have to pour more money into it.
"So we switched the culture and now we're telling them that when they produce good results and show us that what you're doing is good health care dollar spending you're going to get a bonus."
BGH got a $218,000 bonus from the province for its efforts to reduce wait times for emergency room patients.
The hospital has enjoyed a string of successes, which can partly be attributed to having an MRI, as well as other updated diagnostic equipment, such as a new CT scan.
"We don't have a problem attracting specialists to Brantford," Levac said. "Health-care professionals want to work here because of the state-of-the-art equipment and because of what the community has to offer."
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews comes from London, but she has Brantford roots.
Her grandfather was John Henry Matthews, who was twice mayor of Brantford in 1946 and 1947 and a longtime alderman. He also worked as a stereotyper in the mechanical division of The Expositor.
There were 10 children in the family and they grew up on McClure Avenue.
The MPP for London North Centre was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 2003."
Wow - guess we've just seen the preview of the disgusting McGuinty government's health-care narrative for the fall 2011 election.
Lookit that: Deb's Liberals saved us from that old boogeyman, 'two-tier' health!!!! That's the same old shop-worn fear-mongering tactic used by Liberal MPP Jim Bradley as well!! What hackneyed Liberal health-care duplicity.
Guess Deb also wants us to believe that somehow she hadn't heard of, or can't... ummm... quite remember what Quebec's 2005 Chaoulli decsion was all about, eh?! She was a McGuinty MPP by then, right? So Disingenuous Deb wants Ontarians to just disregard the similarities between the Chaoulli challenge and the McCreith - Holmes health-care charter challenge against her Ontario Liberal health-care monopoly?!
Guess Deb's never heard of the Barer - Stoddart [BS!] report, either - where the leftists' solution to 'save money in health-care' was to CUT MEDICAL SCHOOL enrolments in Ontario!! Guess that little bit of monopoly-health-care-engineering had no subsequent impact on Ontario's doctor shortages!
Guess Deb can't see that her own lying Liberal government is on life-support.