Health Coalition sounds alarm over more privatization of health care
The Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition has expressed alarm about the Ontario government’s plans for further privatization of provincial health care.
With two months before the Ontario election, the Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition and Ontario Health Coalition met virtually to discuss the privatization of health care proposed by the Conservative government.
On Feb. 1, Health Minister Christine Elliott signalled Ontario wants to deal with some of the backlogs in surgeries, treatments and procedures by using more private clinics.
Zac Miller, co-chair of Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition, called the plans “an unprecedented attack of our public services” during the virtual event.
Michael Hurley, president of Ontario Council of Hospital Unions said during the meeting that 4,225 residents of Ontario’s long-term care homes have died from COVID. He said the average long-term care home COVID death rate in Ontario has been 5.2 per cent, while 2.8 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively, were the rates in municipal homes and publicly owned homes, which are non-profit. Three quarters of COVID deaths in LTC homes have taken place in homes owned by for-profit organizations.
“Not one single home has been fined,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “No one has lost their license. In fact, quite the opposite. The province is actually giving expansions to the very worst for-profit homes that are responsible for the deaths of literally thousands of people who were in their care.”
Mehra said the way the premier’s government is going, they are on track to privatize the last remaining parts of Ontario’s home care.
“We don’t tell people how to vote,” said Mehra, “but we support parties that will support public healthcare and we oppose parties that oppose public healthcare.”
Randy Robinson, Ontario Director of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says whenever people talk about being in favour of privatizing public services, “they talk about the cost and make the argument that because the government is broke, allegedly, there has to be more private delivery of healthcare. You don’t have any money, I’ve got some money, I’ll spend my money and we’ll get more services that way. That’s not really the way it works.”
Robinson said despite Ontario having the lowest provincial healthcare and hospital funding, the fewest beds and fewest RNs, Ontario was the richest province as recently as 2019.
Making sure workers are paid enough and the quality of care is there is possible without making “superhuman sacrifices.”
Robinson also said COVID has had a “remarkably tiny effect on the provincial budget largely because the federal government has put $145 billion dollars into pandemic related supports in Ontario alone.”
Hurley also pointed out that even in the pandemic’s first wave when Canadian Armed Forces medical personnel were helping out some of the LTCs, “the for-profit industry was distributing tens of millions of dollars in executive bonuses.”
The Advocate asked the moderators how they feel about support for their efforts from MPP Laurie Scott and MP Jamie Schmale.
Bonnie Roe, Haliburton CKL Long-Term Care Coalition co-founder, said Scott and Schmale are both respectful and responsive, and have been in Zoom meetings with her coalition. She also said it is great they meet with her because she has heard of some MPs and MPPs who do not, but “the difficulty is they tout the Conservative line. Laurie Scott is responsive, but she just never has any answers when you question her.”
Lindsay and District Labour Council president, James Mulhern said their defense is always that the privatization is there to relieve the backlog of the surgeries and Ontario already has a two-tier system but that was not the way he wants the country to go.
The coalition is currently setting up posters and signs to put up for the election to get their message about.
“We live in one of the richest provinces in one of the richest countries in one of the richest times in history,” said Mehra. “There’s no question we can take care of one another and if we create a public debate about the privatization of our health care, there is no doubt we can win it. But the people don’t know it’s happening. It’s happening behind the scenes, in bits and pieces, we need to make these things key election issues. We’re asking you to put lawn signs and window signs and billboards across your communities.”