A collective of children’s health organizations called the Children’s Health Coalition, including CHEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and SickKids, has released a list of demands for Ontario’s next government to commit to within its first 100 days in office.
“Now that we know that kids are really suffering on these wait lists and wait times that are clinically unsafe for them, we’ve come together and we’ve made a plan called ‘Make Kids Count,'” said Julia Hanigsberg, President and CEO of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.
The Children’s Health Coalition wants the next government to commit to a $1 billion investment over four years in the Make Kids Count Action Plan, a cross-sectoral children’s health summit with government, children’s health-care organizations and health-care providers to agree on principles for a long-term provincial strategy, and to develop and release Ontario’s first-ever Children’s Health Strategy.
“We believe that if we do those things, we’re going to be in much better shape four years from now than we are today and that means kids are going to be happier, healthier, living the lives we all want kids to be living,” added Hanigsberg.
According to the coalition, there are 16,000 children currently on waitlists for surgery in the province.
“For a child, it’ll take twice as long to get an MRI than for the average adult in Ontario … kids are waiting way too long,” she said.
Andrea Haefele, mother of 11-year-old Bella, who was diagnosed with global developmental delay, autism spectrum disorder and Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome, knows well that the pandemic has brought lengthy delays for treatments and surgeries.
“There has been a huge gap in regards to her health care … we do have some virtual appointments here and there, however, this didn’t provide us the whole picture. It was really challenging for us,” said Haefele.
Many routine appointments were only offered virtually for Bella, who is non-verbal and uses an iPad to communicate, including mental health visits and appointments with doctors who treat Bella’s back for scoliosis.
Haefele also noted that Bella required reconstructive dental surgery in hospital after a fall, but that operation was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Health care is top of mind for her family as they head to cast their ballot in the upcoming provincial election.
“Reality is that families like ours are often cut adrift when our politicians are in the position to choose how they want to support the disabled community. We’re usually left to fend for ourselves,” she said. “I’m looking for someone who is able to take the time to talk to us, to get to know us and to see us that we are part of a community that they are leading.”
Similarly, Dylan Buskermolen, a three-time cancer survivor, will be considering what the political parties are offering in terms of support for frontline health-care workers and health-care facilities as he casts his ballot.
He too experienced delays for treatment during the pandemic.
“Two weeks, three weeks, even a month, I know from personal experience can feel like really an eternity when you’re waiting on a diagnosis,” he said.
Buskermolen’s last relapse of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was during the height of the pandemic.
“Surgeries come in all forms in the cancer process for everyone so whether that’s addressing, diagnosing or a biopsy to get more information about the type of cancer or for me, I had four surgeries that were to put in different ports and tubes so that the chemotherapy could be administered to me properly in a safe way so a lot of those were facing delays,” he explained.
Buskermolen will be voting for a political party that plans to make health care in Ontario a priority.
“I’ve seen the amazing work that our health-care workers, that our doctors and their teams have been going through and really putting in and I know that they’re tired and everyone’s tired and I think that the main thing we can do now is invest in them and support them with really targeted investment strategies,” he said.