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Health-care changes ‘frightening’: Health coalition

Posted: April 3, 2019

Fears more privatization, which province denies; town hall meeting Friday in Sault

April 3, 2019 | Last Updated: April 3, 2019 4:17 PM EDT

The public is being kept in the dark about changes coming to Ontario health care — and many will be “surprised and shocked” when they learn the truth, contends a Sault Ste. Marie public health advocacy group.

Sault Ste. Marie Health Coalition says of chief concern is Bill 74, which folds multiple health agencies, including the North East Local Health Integration Network or NE LHIN, into one super-agency.

“It’s going to, I believe, throw health care into chaos and disarray all across this province,” group member Marie DellaVedova told The Sault Star. “We won’t recognize some of the agencies or services anymore.”

Most alarming, she added, is that new legislation paves the way for more privatization. Ontario coalitions contend this will enable super-agency appointees to transfer public and non-profit health-care services to for-profit companies. The province has said the legislation will not include two-tier care, private hospitals, making patients pay for more services out of pocket, or privatizing services, such as long-term-care inspections and air ambulance service.

The coalition contends the regional LHIN has already been effectively dismantled, and all decision-making is now in the hands of provincial appointees based in Toronto, most of whom have little background in health care and were chosen instead for their “financial credentials.”

“So, many of the health-care services that we value, as Canadians, are public, not-for-profit, and this legislation can turn that upside down,” DellaVedova said. “People already have trouble navigating the health-care system. This is going to be, I believe, total chaos.”

She hopes a Friday evening town hall meeting, presented by the Sault group and Ontario Health Coalition, will give the public a firmer grasp of what’s called for in the bill.

“I don’t think people realize the enormity of this legislation,” DellaVedova said. “So, I think it’s really important to get that legislation out there.”

A two-day series of public hearings regarding the legislation was carried out earlier this week in Toronto — hardly enough consultation given what is being proposes, opponents argue.

DellaVedova said that traditionally, when such considerable changes are being proposed, governments ask for input, with panels travelling around province and gathering feedback considered in final decisions.

“None of that is happening,” she said. “Everything is happening so fast, the public isn’t even aware of what’s going on. It’s frightening, actually.”

Natalie Mehra, Ontario Health Coalition executive director, will speak at Friday’s town hall, slated for 7 p.m. at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25, 96 Great Northern Rd.

DellaVedova said she hopes residents opposed to such changes to hearth care can, at the very least, compose a “plan of action” so that if the government’s plan can’t be totally stopped, at least efforts to seek amendments can be made.

“People will realize they can’t be complacent,” she added.

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