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‘Brink of collapse’: Privatization of health care would be a disaster, coalition says

Posted: April 4, 2022

(April 2, 2022)

By: Keith Gilligan, DurhamRegion.com

Health-care session

– Susie Kockerscheidt/Metroland

A bleak picture of health care was painted at the Durham Health Coalition session on the provincial government’s plan to privatize more of the health-care system.

The Zoom session, held on Tuesday, March 29, attracted between 80 and 90 people, and outlined how the system would suffer if more health care is privatized.

Linda McQuaig, a journalist and bestselling author, spoke of a friend who had a heart attack while walking down Yonge Street in Toronto. He was rushed to hospital, had emergency surgery, spent one week in intensive care and another five weeks recuperating in hospital.

“I always remember what he told me as he was checking out of the hospital six weeks later. Walking out a healthy man, having had this wonderful, hundreds of thousands of dollars of fantastic care, and he said he was struck by the fact that no one mentioned money. To have all this fantastic care and he walked out of there not owing a penny,” McQuaig said.

“This reminds us why Canadians revere Medicare. It enshrines the principle of equality. Everyone matters. Everyone is included, no matter how rich or how poor you are. You have access to the best medical care,” she noted. “You can see the battle over the privatization of medicine is really a battle for the soul of Canada.”

She said public health care is “so much more cost-effective than private health care. That’s why the U.S., with its largely private health-care system, is so much more expensive per person.”

“Public health care produces better results. The reason for that is also quite straightforward and understandable. The public health-care system is not focused on profit. It’s focused on patient care and that makes a huge difference,” McQuaig added.

Natalie Mehra, the executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, spoke about a woman who died alone in a nursing home, having suffered greatly during the pandemic.

“Like all residents in long-term care, Margaret paid for her care and we all helped to pay as taxpayers. But she didn’t get it,” Mehra said. “Margaret didn’t die of COVID-19. She died of neglect.”

More than 4,500 long-term-care residents have died of COVID-19 in Ontario, while another approximately 25,000 have contracted the virus, she said.

Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said Ontario leads the developed world in the number of seniors in long-term care who died of COVID-19.

“Of those deaths, three-quarters died in for-profit facilities,” Hurley said.

“The average death rate for COVID was 5.2 per cent for the for-profits versus 2.8 per cent for the not-for-profits and 1.8 per cent for the municipal homes for the aged,” he added.

Mehra said, “Ontario funds health care at the lowest rates in Canada. We have fewest nurses per weighted case, that means the fewest nurses per patient in the country.”

The Ontario Health Coalition is trying to make the privatization of health care an issue in the June 2 provincial election.

“This is what’s at stake with this election. It’s the lives of the 75,000 people, like Margaret in long-term care, who have already suffered unspeakably and seen no improvement. None. That is no exaggeration,” Mehra added.

D.J. Sanderson, a registered nurse and the regional vice-president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association in Durham Region, said, “Ontario’s health-care system is on the brink of collapse. We’re two years into this global pandemic and with the continuing risk of new variants, new waves on the way, we face this massive surgical backlog that has to be addressed.”

He added that underfunding over the years has contributed to the problem.

To learn more about the health coalition’s initiative, visit www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca.

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