Who can fix Ontario’s health care crisis? Not our new Minister of Health

At times it seems that Ontario has been left unguarded. We are a vast, densely populated province that, like it or not, is the beating heart of Canada’s economic power. But is anyone responsible?

Please take care of yourself. Ontario’s biggest problem right now has been laid bare in the pandemic: the exhaustion of our medical system with a crisis-level shortage of nurses, people unable to find a family doctor , crowded emergency rooms forced to close temporarily, and delayed surgeries that could kill people through carelessness.

These are the biggest traffic jams in 2022 in a huge healthcare system that directly or indirectly employs more than 500,000 people, including nurses, doctors and medical professionals, and radiating to services from laboratories, physiotherapists, psychologists, security personnel, acupuncturists, massage therapists, hearing specialists and many others who care for body and mind.

Responsible for all of this is Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s new Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. The MLA for Dufferin-Caledon, a perfectly pleasant person I’m sure, has a radio degree from Fanshawe College and no experience in anything health care related.

She briefly held two Cabinet positions since 2018, including Solicitor General for Public Safety and Prisons, again with no experience.

His replacement in that position, Michael Kerzner, MPP for York Center, is a bioscience entrepreneur with a degree from York University and a clunky website littered with peculiar errors. (“Michael likes to lead by example…never afraid to get involved in support of a great cause.”)

Those deficits may not matter if Jones has a large team of experienced officials who will come up with repair ideas and get the job done. What bothers me is that it doesn’t help.

Sometimes I play a mental game in which I decide how sick I should be to go to the ER and take up valuable space that could go to sicker patients. Monkeypox, no – the family doctor can handle that. COVID, no – I stayed home. Theoretical wound near the femoral artery, no. Femoral artery projecting huge fins of blood to the ceiling, yes.

Of course, I fish for compliments. Look how self-sacrificing she is! But the thing is, I don’t want to lie in a fetid hallway for 16 hours, breathing in unidentifiable fumes and sipping canned peaches under my mask, unless the paramedics absolutely insist.

How did we come here? I worry about Jones and his cohort, about the kind of people who enter politics. Premier Doug Ford has a third-rate cabinet, which puzzles me because he was going to win and he had time to prepare.

Highly intelligent and qualified people are now turning away from politics – the rudeness of public reaction, the general idiocy of political debate, death threats and the thinning of quality journalism to help translate politics to the public – and it is a problem.

With just two weeks left for nominations, more than a quarter of Toronto city councilors could run for office this fall unopposed, CBC reports. Three million people, 25 council seats. What went wrong?

Even candidates without much life experience need to be smart, energetic and have a degree of affability that allows them to weed out the unattractive aspects of the job.

Ford’s cabinet members are shy and hide from the media, which may explain why citizens have lost faith in government. Is there even a government? Tell the reporters, please.

Determined reporters managed to track down Jones. Here are some of his public statements, his zingers, his delightful jokes.

“I’m going to listen and learn and I’m going to find out by having these conversations with partners on the pitch,” Jones said. “We need to make sure all health care partners are working together. And my role and my goal as minister is to make sure that happens. Great stuff if it was still 2018.

Of the terrifying shortage of nurses in Ontario, Jones said, “There have been so many meetings, conversations, hearing feedback, hearing from organizers on the ground to say, what can we do today, in three months and in six months, who will make a difference in your organization? This feedback has been extremely helpful in ensuring that the tweaks and changes we make are ones that will actually make a difference in the field.

It’s babbling on the floor. Frustrated reporters cite the whole mess because that’s all Jones offers. I am troubled by the lack of expertise, medical terms, numbers, and what teachers would call action words. I wish she hadn’t said “adjustments”.

We need meat with our word salad. Jones did not announce the repeal of Bill 124, which capped public sector wages and made the return of retired nurses unlikely. She said she would give nursing and medical regulatory colleges two weeks to find a way to more quickly license internationally trained staff. It should have been done a long time ago, as the Liberals point out, and it will inevitably go slowly.

At no time did she or Ford acknowledge the terror of our time. August is so sleepy, but September is approaching. The crisis swells. The ball is full of blood.


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