Statement by the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care on the Auditor General’s Reports
Today, Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care issued the following statement on the Auditor General’s reports:
Ontario Drug Programs
“We would like to thank the Auditor General for her report on the Ontario Drug Programs and the recommendations that follow. As noted by the Auditor General, the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance has successfully lowered drug prices for people in Ontario and across Canada, resulting in $1.3 billion in annual savings. There is more that can be done to ensure we are getting the best price for drugs so those savings can be reinvested into funding new innovative drug therapies. Canada is the only industrialized country with universal health insurance, but no national pharmacare strategy. We know it’s going to take leadership to get this done, but we have an opportunity to lead the way in Ontario. Pharmacare would provide a cohesive, national approach for drug coverage. We look forward to continuing that conversation with our provincial, territorial and federal partners to help ensure affordability for government and access for patients.”
“I would like to thank the Auditor General for her report on Ontario’s cancer care system. The Auditor correctly points out that from an outcomes perspective, our system is excelling at providing timely, lifesaving treatment to those who need it most. We are fortunate to have a system that has the best survival rates for breast, colorectal and lung cancers in Canada and a cancer mortality rate that, according to World Health Organization figures, is among the best in the world, comparing favorably to the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands and France.
We are already hard at work on improving the service delivery and outcomes on a number of the Auditor General’s recommendations and look forward to reviewing all of her findings in greater detail. For example, we have increased funding for blood cancers, including stem cell transplants over the last two years by over $73 million to help build capacity here in the province. As well as investing in new capital projects at Sunnybrook Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences, London Health Sciences Centre, The Ottawa Hospital and University Health Network.
With respect to cancer drugs, we recognize that some drugs can be costly to Ontarians, and we know there is more than can be done. That is why it’s so important we are launching OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare to provide over 4,400 prescription drugs on our formulary to children and youth 24 and under at no cost, and that we continue to work with our provincial, territorial and federal partners towards the goal of national pharmacare.”
“Our government takes the health promotion and prevention of chronic disease very seriously. Over the years, we have taken a number of steps to enhance provincial programming specifically to ensure that Ontarians are aware of healthy lifestyle options and know the services that are available to them. Our community paramedicine program, made permanent last year, includes education by paramedics to help people learn about healthy living and chronic disease prevention. We increased the number of Diabetes Education Teams from 220 to 321 to help people manage their diabetes and related complications. Since 2014, over 73,000 people have participated in community-based diabetes prevention activities, including modifying behaviour, screening for risk factors and increased diabetes awareness.
Ontario’s Healthy Kids Strategy was launched in 2013 and focuses on key interventions to support healthy weights among children and youth through increased physical activity and healthy eating. Ontario is also the only province to require the posting of calories on menu boards in regulated food premises, to help families make informed choices by giving people information about what they eat, when ordering in or dining out.
As a result of concerted efforts, such as through the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy, the province has decreased the smoking rate from 20.9 per cent in 2005 to 17.4 per cent in 2014. We know however, there is more that can be done, and that it is crucial that we continue to work with our public health units and partners across Ontario to ensure we are utilizing local expertise and experience. We would like to thank the Auditor General for her recommendations and I look forward to reviewing with my ministry.”
Hospital and Community Labs
“Community labs are a key component of the health care system. That is why our government continues to take steps to improve value, access and utilization of laboratory services across the province. We agree with the Auditor General that Ontarians should have access to laboratory tests that are both safe and accurate, and provided within a timely manner. We recognize the importance of laboratory and genetic services in Ontario and have taken a number of steps to modernize the sector. In 2015, the ministry established the Laboratories and Genetics Branch to improve value, access, accountability and quality of service. We are also consulting with patients and our lab partners to enhance access to community lab services in northern and rural areas of the province. We thank the Auditor General for her recommendations and we will continue our efforts to increase capacity and capability across the health care system for laboratory services.”
Community Health Centres
“Our government agrees with the Auditor General that Community Health Centres across Ontario provide important health care access to over half a million Ontarians, many of whom are vulnerable populations including new Canadians, homeless populations and seniors. The Patients First Act was an important first step to help our system empower local health care planners and ensure we are providing targeted, evidenced based resources equitably across the province. We would like to thank the Auditor General for her recommendations on how we can further strengthen community health centres in Ontario.”