By Ben Forrest, St. Thomas Times-Journal
Jeff Yurek is hammering away at the provincial government about a perceived lack of funding for orthopedic surgeons at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital.
The Progressive Conservative MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London is trying to link the shortfall to what he says is financial mismanagement and waste from the Liberal government.
But health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins shot back in a statement to the Times-Journal, saying his government has been rebuilding Ontario’s health care system after years of neglect and cuts while the Conservatives were in office.
“As a result of our investments, we’ve gone from worst to first for reducing wait times, including hip and knee replacements, cataracts, cardiac care and radiation oncology as noted by the Wait Time Alliance,” Hoskins noted.
Yurek became aware of the funding issue when surgeons from STEGH visited him at his office with concerns, he said.
Current funding allows for 174 joint replacement surgeries a year, Yurek pointed out in a statement in the provincial legislature.
“However, that is not enough,” he stressed. “They would need funding to at least cover 220 (surgeries) during the fiscal year.”
Hoskins pointed to reduced wait times for hip and knee replacements in the South West Local Health Integration Network and funding for STEGH that has increased by 44% over the last decade.
“We know that there’s more work to be done and we will continue to take steps to reduce wait times and improve outcomes for patients,” he said.
But Yurek shot back in an interview Thursday, saying this isn’t a rebuilding of the system.
“This is a rationing of our health care system (with the) few dollars that they have going forward,” he said.
Yurek said he will continue to talk to the minister, adding it’s not a doctor shortage issue.
“It’s an issue to provide the funding for them to do their job,” he advised. “And this government needs to sharpen their pencils and be sure to provide funding where we need it and the services we depend on.”