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Concerned about cuts to health care and possible privatization, people rally in Waterloo

Posted: December 11, 2022

(December 12, 2022)

By: Kate Bueckert, James Chaarani, CBC News

People walk down the street. One person holds a toaster oven box with a sign inside that says "patients over profits." Another sign reads "don't privatize our public health care."

A group of more than 60 people took part in a rally and march organized by the Waterloo Region Health Coalition on Monday at noon. Similar marches were held Monday in Toronto and Windsor. (James Chaarani/CBC)

Donna Evans says she recently had a nightmare that she was back working in a hospital caring for sick children and more kept coming in.

“I woke up thinking I started with three sick kids and then had two more brought and I can’t handle this,” the retired nurse from Kitchener, Ont., told CBC News Monday as she took part in a rally against changes to the Ontario health-care system.

Evans says she sympathizes with nurses and other health-care workers who are seeing a rise in patients — particularly children — with respiratory illnesses right now.

“I feel that over the years, our health-care system has continued to be cut away, cut away, cut away, and we’re down to bare bones,” she said.

“I know what it was like when we were busy when I was practicing for 43 years, but now it is just so chaotic that the nurses — there’s no way they can do it anymore.”

A woman wearing a mask holds a sign that says 'Save Our Hospitals.'

Donna Evans, a retired nurse, took part in the rally and march. She says she feels for health-care workers right now who are under a lot of pressure and stress. (James Chaarani/CBC)

Evans was part of a group of more than 60 people who gathered in uptown Waterloo and marched along King Street to Grand River Hospital Monday afternoon. The protest was organized by the Ontario Health Coalition because it says cuts in funding have led to closures and overcrowding at hospitals across the province.

Similar marches were held in Ottawa and Niagara on Friday and in Toronto and Windsor on Monday.

‘Stop doing this’

Roger Lee of Kitchener is retired from a job in manufacturing and says he’s concerned the health-care system is falling apart.

“Senior citizens in this country paid for health care with their blood, sweat and tears over the years, and [Premier Doug] Ford is taking all that away,” Lee said, adding he’s worried about parts of the system becoming privatized.

“We don’t want a U.S.-style health-care system here in Canada,” he said. “Right now, we have a health-care system that looks after everyone on an equal basis. When it comes to privatized health care you will have to pay — the ones with the money will get the better service.”

Verlyn Rowett of Cambridge said her brother is currently in hospital and she worries about him being sent to another facility for care — which, due to new legislation, may not even be a facility of his choice. As well, her daughter has Down syndrome and Rowett is concerned about what the future of health care will look like for her.

Woman holding a sign that says 'public health care belongs to everyone.'

Verlyn Rowett of Cambridge says she’s worried about the future of the health-care system for her children and grandchildren. (James Chaarani/CBC)

She said her message to the provincial government would be: “Stop doing this.”

“We want to talk to the politicians and other people to get them to kind of wake up to what’s happening and we want to make sure that they think about it,” she said. “Public health belongs to everybody.”

Concerns about privatization

In August, when hospitals across the province were seeing an increase in patients and some had to close their emergency departments due to lack of staffing, Ontario’s Health Minister Sylvia Jones said “all options are on the table” when asked if the government would consider privatizing the health-care system.

“I’m saying that there is innovation and opportunities here in Ontario and we will explore those,” Jones said at the time.

It’s a message that hasn’t sat well with retired secondary school teacher Joseph Amatruda of Waterloo.

“I believe as Canadians we value public services and we value our public health care because we want to treat everyone equally and not stratify our society between the haves and the have-nots,” Amatruda said during Monday’s rally.

“I think in a just society, this sets the tone — equal access for all and quality services for all publicly managed and publicly delivered.”

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