In its Bill 41, the government is proposing a major reform in the critical health care sector. The discussion paper issued by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care clearly outlines the deficiencies in health care for the province’s Francophone patients, and I’m grateful to the Ministry for being so proactive in this disclosure. The paper contains the following statement:
“Some Ontarians – particularly Indigenous peoples, Franco-Ontarians, members of cultural groups (especially newcomers), and people with mental health and addiction challenges – are not always well-served by the health care system.”
The government has certainly been responsive to our repeated requests, but I’m concerned that the bill, in its present form, doesn’t go far enough. For that reason, I published a news release, and I appeared before the parliamentary committee last week and gave this presentation. Most importantly, we submitted a more technical legal brief, in which we offered some concrete, achievable suggestions for long-term solutions.
We see two major issues here. The first concerns a subject of particular importance. Essentially, the Ministry and my office have been in a legal dispute for years about how to interpret the obligations of the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) when they identify French-language service providers. We believe quite simply that the service providers become third parties and therefore that the French Language Services Act and its regulations apply to them. The Ministry and the LHINs disagree. It is important to fix this now, while we are in the process of amending the Act. Because the Ministry kept telling me that it could not change the Act to remedy this problem. Now is the perfect opportunity to do so. The consequences for French-language health services for Francophone patients are too great to sit by and do nothing.
The second issue concerns the relationship between the LHINs and the French Language Health Planning Entities. We are offering important recommendations to make the Entities genuine partners in planning health services with the LHINs, as their name indicates, so that they can provide suggestions for long-term solutions for Francophone patients. We also make recommendations to improve the transparency and accountability of both the LHINs and the Entities.
Today, the parliamentary committee responsible for clause-by-clause study of this bill is meeting for the last time to deal with amendments before the bill goes to third reading. We are in attendance to provide advice (or input) if needed, so that we can make sure that we have the best possible bill, a bill that will actually put patients first, including Francophone patients.