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Health coalition holding town hall tour “The Sarnia Observer, March 7, 2019”

Posted: March 8, 2019

Health coalition holding town hall tour

Tyler Kula, The Sarnia Observer

Members of the Sarnia-Lambton Health Coalition picket outside the province’s annual pre-budget consultation at the Holiday Inn in Sarnia Thursday, the only consultation meeting in Southwestern Ontario this year. Afterwards, the leader of the local branch of the Ontario Health Coalition said she was skeptical the committee would listen to their suggestions, for fewer cuts and more investment in healthcare. (Louis Pin/The Observer)

Details of how the Ontario government plans to restructure the provincial health system are pending, and the Sarnia-Lambton Health Coalition is worried they won’t be good.

Shirley Roebuck, head of the local Ontario Health Coalition chapter, said she’s concerned the provincial government’s plan to merge local health integration networks, Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario, Trillium Gift of Life and others into a monolithic Ontario Health “super agency” over a period of several years could mean more privatization in the system.

The coalition says the People’s Health Care Act would give the government new powers to merge, transfer and close health services, something Roebuck said could lead to, for example, more for-profit nursing homes.

The coalition is hosting a series of town hall meetings opposing the changes that would also create 30-50 local health teams, each responsible for up to 300,000 people.

Health coalition tour stops include Chatham-Kent March 21, Windsor March 22, Sarnia March 23, London March 25, and Wallaceburg March 28.

The government has said the remodel is about eliminating administrative duplication, but hasn’t said if it’ll save money or lead to job losses.

A recent report from Ontario’s financial accountability officer projects health care costs could rise to more than $73 billion by 2022-23, from about $60 billion currently.

That makes the government pledge to reduce overall spending by $6 billion without raising taxes difficult “without compromising health-care access or quality,” if the aim is to find those savings just through cuts and within four years, Peter Weltman said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has also said she’s concerned the new system could open the door to more health-care privatization.

Health Minister Christine Elliott has said publicly funded health care will remain a priority.

Reaction from different provincial health-care groups to the plan has been mixed.

In addition to the town hall tour, Roebuck said, a rally at Queen’s Park is being planned for April 30.

“We want to have huge numbers at Queen’s Park … to tell Doug Ford he does not have the mandate to get rid of our public health care system,” she said.

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