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Citizens rally for seniors care

Posted: June 26, 2020

(June 25, 2020)

By: Mary Katherine Keown, Sudbury Star

They rallied in the rain to make their voices heard.

A half-dozen supporters of the Ontario Health Coalition braved Wednesday’s cold rain and assembled at the Elm Street offices of the Northeast Local Health Integration Network Wednesday afternoon to show their concern for Bill 175. The bill, which went to third reading in the legislature this week, aims to restructure and privatize home care.

The rally in Sudbury was part of province-wide gatherings held – with social distancing in mind – in several cities across Ontario.

“We are protesting the debate on Bill 175. We are pushing for this bill to be withdrawn and for more public input into what is needed in our communities,” Dot Klein, co-chair of the Sudbury chapter of the Ontario Health Coalition, said outside the LHIN office. “Our needs in Northeastern Ontario are different and are regional. If we don’t speak up, we’re not going to get exactly what we require in health care.”

Klein, herself a retired nurse with the Victorian Order of Nurses, said supporters of the OHC are concerned largely with home and community care. For one thing, Bill 175 proposes doing away with oversight and the public governance of home care, which she said helps to ensure the delivery of quality care. If a client is unhappy with his/her personal support worker, Klein said under Bill 175 they would have no recourse.

The bill also advocates for the establishment of privatized home care and user fees, Klein said.

There was a second rally location at Sudbury MPP Jamie West’s office on Barrydowne Road. Due to the rain, supporters were encouraged to drive through the parking lot, honk and wave banners.

The New Democrats said Wednesday Ontario Premier Doug Ford needs to listen to Ontarians about Bill 175, especially those who oppose his plan.

“Seniors care in Ontario is broken, but the Ford Conservatives seemed to have learned nothing from the tragedies in long-term care during this pandemic and are plowing ahead to make matters even worse,” West said. “Doug Ford wants to open the door to further privatization in home care and take away accountability, all while failing to address staff shortages that plague home and community care.”

Ford’s bill was unopposed by the Liberal representative at Queens Park on Monday, who abstained from opposing it in committee.

“The Liberals did an incredible amount of damage to home care and created a crisis in seniors care in this province,” West continued. “Now, instead of helping to fix the problems they started, they are standing by and watching it get even worse.”

Ford is also considering a bill that would prevent families from taking legal action against private companies who own and run longterm care homes.

“Families whose loved ones suffered or died in private longterm care homes are looking for answers,” said West. “But instead of helping them, Doug Ford is siding with those same corporations that profited from seniors and failed to protect them during the COVID-19 crisis.”

The New Democrats plan to vote against Bill 175 at the legislature this week after attempts at introducing amendments, which would have improved quality of care for patients and expanded home care services, failed to gain traction.

Klein said under Bill 175 if patients cannot be discharged from the hospital because they cannot return home for any reason or have nowhere to go, they will need to pay out of pocket.

“If you stay in the hospital, you will be paying,” she said. “OHIP won’t cover you. You will be paying to stay in the hospital; it’ll be out of your pocket.”

Klein said the OHC wants the Conservative government to reconsider the implementation of Bill 175. It puts profits over people and has excluded the voice of citizens, she argued.

“We’re demanding that Bill 175 be withdrawn and that we rethink it,” she said. “We want to wait until COVID-19 is a little more (under control) so we can sit down. There’s been no public input for this – none. We want public input, especially in Northern and Northeastern Ontario. We have a massive geographic area with a lot of little towns and a high incidence of elderly requiring care. We want to be listened to, and not rush this through.”

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