Yes, Minister comes to Ontario’s health care system

Our goal is to ensure that patients get the care they need no matter who they are, and that the local health-care system is there for them no matter where they live, as we continue to improve one of the best systems in the world—one that truly puts patients first.”— Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care


Dr. Douglas Mark

Dr. Douglas Mark

If you, like me, are a fan of the British comedy series Yes, Minister, and its subsequent spin-off Yes, Prime Minister, then you’re probably familiar with the term “politician’s syllogism.”

The politician’s syllogism—sometimes referred to as “politician’s logic” or “politician’s fallacy”—typically contains two premises which by themselves are both true, but when linked together can be used to create a third premise which is inherently false.

For instance: “We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this.”

In the Yes, Prime Minister episode “Power to the People,” which originally aired in 1988, two senior civil servants, Sir Arnold and Sir Humphrey, who are worried that the prime minister wants to introduce a plan to reform local government, thereby eliminating any opposition to his policies, share their concerns with each other over what the PM is proposing.

Sir Arnold: “It’s the old logical fallacy. All cats have four legs. My dog has four legs . . . ”

Sir Humphrey: “Therefore my dog is a cat.”

Sir Arnold: “He’s suffering from politician’s logic.”

Sir Humphrey: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it.”

Sir Arnold: “But doing the wrong thing is worse than doing nothing.”

Here in Ontario, Dr. Eric Hoskins, minister of health and long-term care, recently released a discussion document, “Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care,” which is meant to serve as a blueprint for the Liberal Party’s ambitious plan to once again reform and revitalize our health-care system.

If you’re keeping track, I believe this is now their third or fourth attempt at getting things right and bringing about positive, lasting change to our crumbling health-care system—change which just about all of us can agree is sorely needed and long overdue in this province.

Unfortunately, what Dr. Hoskins and his minions up at the health ministry are proposing won’t, in my opinion, make things any better than they already are.

If anything, implementing the government’s Patients First plan will only make things worse.

Case in point: While the Liberals are to be applauded for wanting to finally get rid of the Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), they’re proposing to hand over way too much power to the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) that currently exist.

As if this weren’t bad enough, Dr. Hoskins plans on creating 80—that’s right, I said 80—sub-LHINs, a whole new layer of health-care bureaucracy.

Only someone suffering from politician’s logic could possibly come to the conclusion that the best way to improve our health-care system is by adding more bureaucrats.

It’s enough to make you wonder—based upon this ill-conceived and likely to be poorly-implemented plan, coupled with his doctor-bashing comments over the past 12 months or so—if Dr. Hoskins still considers himself to be a doctor or if, in fact, he’s now simply just another politician.

Sounds to me like maybe he’s forgotten that important oath doctors take, the one that says: “First, do no harm.”

Of course, the real problem with this kind of “magical thinking” is that it focuses on the unimportant stuff, while ignoring what really matters—namely, the fact that our health-care system is broken and clearly unsustainable, unless we look to the private sector for creative and innovative solutions, just like every other country in the world has done except North Korea.

So instead, the Government continues to concentrate on spinning and weaving the most remarkable fairy tales.

Telling us they’re “transforming the system,” “putting patients first,” “making changes for the better,” and most important of all, taking on all those “out of control” doctors, as the health minister recently referred to us—doctors who, because we truly care about our patients and want to them to have the best health care our ever-worsening system can provide, are standing in the way of progress and blocking much needed reforms by having the audacity to bill the government more for services rendered than they’re willing to pay, monies which the Liberals will likely “clawback” from us later this year.

All of which would be funny, if we were talking about a sitcom instead of real life.

Inevitably, life imitating art as it sometimes does, I see a day when Dr. Hoskins calls a press conference to inform the public through the media: “To improve things, things must change. We are changing things. Therefore, we are improving things.”

If only it were true.

Dr. Douglas Mark is the interim president of DoctorsOntario. Follow him on Twitter @DocsOntario.

Canada’s government-run health care system – Medicare -- is a monopoly that prohibits private hospital and private physician care. Medicare is a subpar performer, ranking 10th among 11 advanced countries. Canadians deserve much better! Patients deserve timely access to quality care and choice of hospitals and physicians. Taxpayers deserve much more value for their tax dollars.

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