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NDP government would cut emergency room wait times in half: Horwath

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TORONTO - Ontario's Liberal government wasted millions of dollars in a fruitless effort to reduce overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath charged Tuesday as she unveiled a plan to cut ER wait times in half if the New Democrats win the June 12 election.

The Liberals spent too much money on bureaucrats and not enough on front line care as they tried to reduce wait times in various areas of the health care system, added Horwath.

"They put a whole bunch of money into wait times for home care, but a nice chunk of that money went to the administrators of (Community Care Access Centres), went to the executive directors getting close to 50 per cent salary increases," she said.

"They seem to waste a lot of money at the top — look at the Ornge air ambulance as a perfect example — but the money never seems to focus in on the front lines, and that's where our program is different."

An NDP government would hire 250 new nurse practitioners to work in emergency rooms, create 1,400 more long-term care beds and open 50 new 24-hour-a-day family health clinics, all in an effort to help ease pressure on emergency room wait times, said Horwath.

"The solutions that we're bringing to the table are not about hospital budgets," she said. "They're about reducing the pressure on the hospitals. They're about finding ways to avoid unnecessary wait times by providing the right type of care for people."

The NDP would also implement a five-day home care guarantee, said Horwath, noting patients discharged from hospitals who need the service currently wait anywhere from a week to a month before getting care at home.

"The Liberals are incapable of making any appropriate investments in our health-care system," she said. "Our approach is targeted: get rid of the wait list, and that allows some air through the system and you can get those five-day wait time guarantees in place."

The NDP's plan to reduce ER wait times would cost about $205 million in the first two years and grow to $215 million in the third and fourth years, added Horwath.

The NDP leader, who made the announcement in front of the Ontario legislature with the so-called "hospital row" of University Avenue health care facilities as her backdrop before heading off to campaign stops in London, said the NDP's campaign platform will be fully costed when it's released "very shortly."

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