doug ford emergency room wait times

Increasing pressure on Premier Doug Ford to fix closed hospital emergency rooms and end long wait times for medical care before COVID-19 hits harder in the fall, an ER physician and new Liberal MPP is using the government’s re-election slogan against it.

“You told us that you would ‘get it done.’ And now we’re waiting,” Dr. Adil Shamji (Don Valley East) said Tuesday after a long weekend that saw several emergency rooms and intensive care units closed because of staffing shortages.

“We need you to provide a frank assessment of the situation,” he said to Ford and new Health Minister Sylvia Jones, accusing them of keeping low profiles while the health-care system — stressed by more than two years of the pandemic — veers closer to collapse.

The bureaucrat heading the provincial health system, chief executive Matthew Anderson of Ontario Health, acknowledged in Tuesday’s Star that “there are very, very tough things to solve” such as a backlog of patients needing care, health workers sick with COVID and the long-standing problem of patients awaiting beds in nursing homes.

As a result, the health-care system is “under tremendous strain,” he said.

Shamji and Liberal health critic John Fraser, MPP for Ottawa South, called on the government to repeal Bill 124 that limits most public-sector wage increases — including nurses — to one per cent, accelerate the accreditation of foreign-trained health-care workers, provide 10 paid sick days to all Ontario workers and relieve pressure on hospitals by providing more resources to primary care, community health agencies and long-term-care homes.

“There are measures the government should have taken by now,” said Fraser, who noted nurses have been leaving the profession at unprecedented rates because of working conditions and burnout from high patient loads during the pandemic.

Repealing Bill 124 won’t fix everything but it would send a signal of goodwill to nurses and “plug the hole in the boat,” added Fraser.

A day after the June 2 election, Ford signalled he would lift wage caps for nurses and some other public servants.

Ford said he was open to raising the pay for workers like nurses and teachers whose increases were capped at one per cent in Bill 124, which his government introduced in 2019 as an austerity measure.

“I’m a strong believer when you get inflation, we’ve got to treat people fairly,” he told reporters, singling out nurses for their work during the pandemic.

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