The Amount of Waste within Ontario’s Health Care System Is ‘Sickening’

In Ontario and across Canada, we often hear that there have been cutbacks or that some areas of the health care system no longer have the budget to meet the needs of Canadian patients. Of course, as Canadians, we take pride in our health care system regarding accessibility.

What if you found out that the amount of waste was not only shocking but was being described as sickening? Well, according to a new column, the waste within Ontario’s health care system has been labeled just that. Between fraud and mismanagement, it’s been reported that the Ontario budget has not been used appropriately — here’s what was found.

Is Ontario’s Health Care System Too Wasteful?

Recently, Bonnie Lysyk stood at Queen’s Park as Ontario’s Auditor General and spoke in disgust. She reported some findings, including everything from poor road construction to the way in which doctors get paid. Her report was exhaustive, to say the least,  and regarding our health care system, she raised some important concerns.

More specifically, she addressed a new way in which doctors get paid for their services — a method that has been a disaster regarding our health care budget. This payment system has cost the health ministry hundreds of millions of dollars in payments for care of patients who were never seen by their doctor.

Take a moment to process that because it is truly shocking. By March 31st of this year, 2 percent of Ontario’s 14,100 family physicians had opted for a new payment model that would replace the traditional fee-for-service system that was previously in place. Under this new system, doctors are paid $3 per patient, per month.

That doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Well, when these doctors are being paid for patients that had not visited them, you can imagine how quickly the fees add up. In turn, this has resulted in higher costs, yet there have been no improvements made to the quality of care itself. In fact, wait times have increased.

Not only have the average wait times increased, but patients have stated that it is challenging to obtain care on evenings, weekend, and public holiday without going to the emergency room — even though under this new payment system, they’re required to provide coverage to their patients.

The patients that are enrolled in this program often seek care within hospitals or walk-in clinics. Since these patients are already accounted for in terms of funding, the province is paying twice in order for them to receive care. To put a number on it — the ministry’s billing system showed that 40 percent of those enrolled in this new payment program went elsewhere for care.

At the end of the day, mismanagement plays a major role and in terms of our budget, we’re not getting value for our money. Here are just some of the highlights for you to review:

  • During 2014-2015, approximately 243,000 visits were made within the emergency room, despite the fact that these conditions could have been treated by family doctors.
  • It was estimated by the health ministry that those visits cost $62 million — $33 million was incurred by the patients who were enrolled in this new payment system, even though they were treated elsewhere.
  • One cardiologist worked a total of 354 days in 2015-2016 and billed the province of Ontario $1.8 million — which was three times higher than the upper expected limit for doctors within this sector. The same was reported for a respirologist who billed five times higher than the upper expected limit at $1.3 million — as well as some other doctors who were paid much more than expected.
  • Due to the new fee-for-service system, in 2014-2015, doctors were paid an additional $522 million

If you’d like to access public information through Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, you can do so here.

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