Au­di­tor high­lights health-care prob­lems

On­tar­i­ans face long wait times for cru­cial biop­sies needed for can­cer di­ag­noses

Windsor Star - - CITY+REGION - The Cana­dian Press

TORONTO On­tario’s au­di­tor general re­leased her an­nual re­port on Wed­nes­day, shin­ing a spot­light on en­ergy, health care and school boards among other ar­eas. Here are the high­lights:

Nine coal and gas gen­er­a­tors claimed as much as $260 mil­lion in in­el­i­gi­ble ex­penses for items in­clud­ing thou­sands of dol­lars each year for rac­coon traps, scuba gear, car­pet clean­ing and staff car washes.

The In­de­pen­dent Elec­tric­ity Sys­tem Operator has not im­ple­mented some rec­om­men­da­tions made by the On­tario En­ergy Board which could have saved ratepay­ers mil­lions over the past 15 years.

The re­port found long wait times for key biop­sies to di­ag­nose can­cer, with only 46 per cent per­formed within the Min­istry of Health’s 14-day tar­get.

The gov­ern­ment is spend­ing mil­lions to send can­cer pa­tients to the United States for stem cell trans­plants be­cause of limited ca­pac­ity to per­form the pro­ce­dure in On­tario. A stem cell trans­plant costs $660,000 to per­form in the United States, com­pared to the $128,000 av­er­age cost in On­tario.

A provin­cial tar­get to pro­vide ra­di­a­tion ther­apy in 48 per cent of can­cer cases has not been met, with 39 per cent of pa­tients re­ceiv­ing the treat­ment in 2015-2016.

There are more house­holds on wait lists for so­cial hous­ing than peo­ple liv­ing in so­cial hous­ing in On­tario. The re­port found there are 185,000 house­holds on the provin­cial wait list and 167,000 house­holds who on av­er­age re­ceive so­cial hous­ing an­nu­ally.

The in­creased cost of sick leave paid as a per­cent­age of school board pay­roll rose from 4.2 per cent in 2011-2012 to 5.3 per cent in 2015-16. The change came af­ter the last col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment stopped al­low­ing teach­ers to bank their sick days.

The prov­ince is not pre­pared for a large-scale emer­gency, the au­di­tor found, and has not up­dated its emer­gency pre­pared­ness plan or provin­cial nu­clear re­sponse plan since 2008 and 2009 re­spec­tively.

Staffing and bud­get cuts at the prov­ince’s Emer­gency Man­age­ment Of­fice have limited its abil­ity to re­spond to a pro­longed event, with the re­port es­ti­mat­ing it could not ad­e­quately re­spond to a dis­as­ter longer than two weeks with cur­rent staffing lev­els.

Gov­ern­ment advertising spend­ing was $58 mil­lion in 2016-17, a 10-year high, with what the au­di­tor de­scribes as 30 per cent of the ads ap­pear­ing in­tended to help make the gov­ern­ment look good.

The gov­ern­ment paid al­most $19 mil­lion in 2016-17 to oper­ate and main­tain 812 va­cant build­ings across the prov­ince. Ap­prox­i­mately 600 of them were un­oc­cu­pied for an av­er­age of eight years.

Sick days are up by 29 per cent over a five-year-pe­riod at 50 of On­tario’s pub­lic school boards — from nine days to 11.6 days per av­er­age em­ployee — caus­ing fi­nan­cial and re­source al­lo­ca­tion pres­sures.

A provin­cial tar­get to pro­vide ra­di­a­tion ther­apy in 48 per cent of can­cer cases has not been met.

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