Algoma Health Coalition representative irked by privatization move
Posted: January 18, 2023
(January 18, 2023)
By: Alex Flood, Elliot Lake Today
The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) is voicing their displeasure with the Ford government’s latest plans to deal with surgical backlogs.
The province recently released a 3-step plan that would expand resources and invest more money into privately-run healthcare clinics with the intention to reduce surgical wait times in hospitals.
The move would allow private clinics to ease the burden from the public system by performing operations such as cataract surgeries, MRI and CT scans, colonoscopies, endoscopies, as well as hip and knee replacements.
But Albert Dupuis, the OHC’s Algoma region representative based in Blind River, says there are obvious alternatives to tackle the backlog.
“This solution is unnecessary,” he says. “Why not invest in the public system, the public hospitals, and get the operating rooms open?”
“There are operating rooms in many of the major hospitals in Ontario that aren’t being used to capacity. They won’t open the spaces and operating rooms where there are contingencies there to deal with things that go south mid-procedure.”
“In some of these private facilities, if something goes wrong, they have to call an ambulance to deal with it. That’s extremely problematic.”
Some of the private centres that will be taking on additional surgical responsibilities include for-profit surgical clinics, which concerns Dupuis and the OHC greatly.
“We know what happens in these private clinics,” he says. “Far too often, things are upsold, there’s queue jumping, and there are all kinds of extra user fees involved.”
“There are people who have paid for cataract surgery, for example, because they didn’t want to wait. That’s now costing people thousands of dollars for the privilege of getting things done in a timelier way.”
“We know profit also comes from understaffing in terms of hours or cutting corners where you can.”
Dupuis says he can’t give an answer at this time on how the transition will look for the Algoma region as he doesn’t know what the status of the development of independent health facilities in the district is.
What he is certain about, however, is the direct impact this could have on an already serious staffing crisis in hospitals and other public healthcare facilities.
“It’s a system that’s already so strained, and these private facilities will start taking staff from the public system,” he says. “Tens of thousands of nurses are already missing from the system.”
“The government needs to allow retired nurses to come back into the workforce to help restaff the hospitals. Give nurses the incentive to come back by eliminating re-license fees and follow through on your promises about improving working conditions.”
The Ford government says they will be investing more than $18 million into existing private clinics to help cover surgeries and other procedural care.
Dupuis believes that money would be better spent elsewhere.
“There’s a lot of things that can be done to improve the public healthcare system, and one of those things is to put money back into it,” he says.
“We have the premier and the prime minister saying that to fix the healthcare crisis, we can’t just go in and throw money at it. But we haven’t been throwing money at it – it’s quite the contrary.”
“We’re spending much less on our public system than many of our peer jurisdictions are.”
The Ontario Nurses Association, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, the Service Employees International Union Healthcare, and Unifor all agree that the province should be investing in the public healthcare system.
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