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Mo' (wasted) Money Mo' Problems.

Mo’ (lost) Money Mo’ Problems.

The Ontario government sure has an amazing track record when it comes to matters of provincial healthcare. As if racking up a billion-dollar bill in the eHealth scandal (remember that?) wasn’t enough, they’ve now added hundreds of millions of dollars in wasted bribe money to their stellar résumé.

Ok, it may not be “bribe” money per se, but it’s definitely along those lines.

According to a study done by researchers at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, $110 million went towards a program that didn’t accomplish what it set out to do (shocker). This program was set up to entice doctors to meet a cancer screening quota for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and cervical cancer. Doctors were basically awarded bonuses when they screened a certain number of people for these cancers.

Here’s the thing: yes, doctors were awarded bonuses for meeting the quotas, but the rate of people being screened didn’t actually increase.  These doctors were awarded incentives even though they didn’t accomplish what the program set out to do.

Was this a good allocation of the public’s tax dollars? No. Although the intentions may have been noble, the program itself wasn’t well thought out. Then again, when has any level of government thought anything through? But I digress.

Maybe this wouldn’t be such a big deal (or such a big expenditure) if a pilot study was used to test the theory out beforehand, but, instead of being responsible and logical, everyone jumped in blindfolded.

The notion of “pay for performance” doesn’t work with doctors. It’s one of those things that sounds good on paper, but is terrible in execution. Even the study’s author thinks so. She has gone on record to say that there is very little evidence to say that these “schemes” really work.  And it’s true. Just look at what happened with eHealth. Moreover, the author even said that the “discrepancy” is probably caused by the fact that the doctors who opted into the program were already doing a good job referring patients for screening.

If that’s the case, then why in God’s name was the program created in the first place? Why waste the money and pump another $110 million dollars into an industry that already eats up $48 billion of Ontario money? Yes, Ontario healthcare is important—probably the most important thing on the agenda—but we can’t afford to be wasteful with our money, especially when we don’t have any. Remember kids, Ontario has over $250 billion dollars of debt already, and it’s climbing by the second. As of today, every Ontario resident’s share of the debt is over $20,000. That could mean a new car. Who has that kind of money to throw away? If you do, can I have some?

I challenge the Ontario government to do something that’ll be both good for them and the people they serve: think before you act. Yes, this may run contrary to government logic, but it needs to be done if Ontario is to get out of its financial grave. The people of Ontario need a sustainable healthcare system, and the Liberals need to sustain their voter support even after election time has passed. Now, can someone pass the Ontario government a shovel?