If ever there was a piece of legislation inappropriately named, it is Ontario Bill 41. If the Ontario Liberal government had more accurately named its legislation, “The Grow Bureaucracy and Invade Patient Privacy Act”, it would have garnered a lot more public and media attention. Even the Ontario Medical Association might have been forced to deal with it earlier instead of waiting until the legislation was under fire from front-line physicians.
Bill 41, cloaked in the reassuring sounding title of “The Patients First Act”, has passed second reading and is before a legislative committee. Premier Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Eric Hoskins want to see it passed in the next four weeks.
Three things you should know about Bill 41:
1. Bill 41 gives the right to government to access your private medical records. The privacy of an individual’s medical record has traditionally been a source of reassurance and trust for patients during the medical process. For government to give itself the power to invade your privacy is as an affront to an individual’s right to have a confidential relationship with their doctor. Today, providers work in teams and more people do have access to a patient’s record now than ever before. But for government to insert itself between providers and patients has potential for negative consequences including further rationing of care and denial of government funded care-which is undoubtedly the rationale for this invasion of privacy.
2. Bill 41 will grow the bureaucracy adding more layers to the fourteen Local Health Integration Networks creating an additional eighty sub-LHINs to be filled with various personnel. Piling on more bureaucracy to the already inefficient LHINs is not the way to stretch our tax dollars to deliver more needed care. Since 2004, the growth in bureaucracy under the Ontario Liberal regime is staggering. We have seen many layers of managers created to measure quality and wait times, while front line funding is being cut to offset the Ontario Liberals’ waste and mismanagement elsewhere. The efficiency of the bureaucracy is not even measured. Ontarians will be paying for more managers, not more care.
3. Bill 41 empowers the Ontario Minister of Health with extraordinary levels of autonomy. This dictatorial positioning is of serious concern and raises many red flags. The legislation gives the government more power over patients and providers and it gives one individual, the Minister of Health, the power to do whatever is considered “in the public interest”. This is extraordinary power. Without ever consulting the public about its “interests”, doctors’ offices may be closed, providers may be limited in their ability to work based on geography, and various groups that exist to deliver care will cease to have a voice. Doctors and health care providers will be forced to comply with government decisions and those decisions will not require engaging the public or the medical profession in the process.
Make no mistake. The Ontario Liberals’ Bill 41, "The Patients First Act", is not about putting patients first. It is about the invasion of patient privacy, injecting the government into health care at every turn with a bulging middle management bureaucracy, and expanding the power of the Minister of Health to limit access to care and to treatments.
The public should be very wary of Bill 41. The rights and power seized with this legislation should remain with the people and not be snatched by a government to grow its bureaucracy while rationing our care. Bill 41 entrenches a heavy-handed, top down health system that no longer guarantees the trust and privacy of the doctor-patient relationship. It is truly unconscionable--even for this Wynne Government and Health Minister Hoskins.