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Health coalition renews calls to stop privatization through virtual town halls

Posted: February 14, 2023

(February 13, 2023)

By: Natalia Vega, Blackburn News

Ontario Health Coalition supporters at Queen's Park rally, October 10, 2018 (Photo from OHC Facebook).

The co-chair of the local health coalition says members will “do what it takes” to get their message across to the Ontario government to stop the privatization of public health care.

Town halls are being held across the province.

Locally, virtual meetings will be held on February 15 at 7 p.m. for Chatham-Kent residents and on February 18 at 10 a.m. for Sarnia-Lambton residents.

Shirley Roebuck, who represents the Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent chapters, said that given recent announcements made by the Ford government, concerns for the public sector have only grown.

At the beginning of the year, Premier Doug Ford confirmed that the expansion of publicly funded medical procedures at private clinics will be permanent. A three-step plan would see services like surgeries and scans delivered by for-profit clinics.

“If that goes ahead, that’s going to be a severe detriment to our community hospitals,” said Roebuck. “We will lose staff, we will lose physicians, and that’s just another local service that won’t be local anymore.”

In order to address the surgical and procedural backlog in Ontario, Roebuck said an alternative would be to fund public hospitals “to the same level that other provinces fund their hospitals” and to sit down with frontline workers.

“If Mr. Ford would use our tax dollars to fund our public health care system by reopening ORs, reopening surgical beds, reopening medical beds to allow our hospitals to function, along with a realistic staffing solution,” she said. “By that, I mean let’s get rid of Bill 124 which caps wages.”

Roebuck stresses that there will always be a need for public hospitals.

“Remember these clinics work business hours, they don’t work weekends and they don’t work nights. If you get into a problem after your procedure, you have to seek help in a public hospital. Why not simply fund our public hospital system?”

Premiers met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week to discuss a health care funding proposal.

Only about a quarter of the $196 billion investment over 10 years was new money but Ford said he was happy for any additional dollars. However, it was not specified whether or not the funding could go toward private clinics.

“Justin Trudeau did not attach any strings to the money that he is willing to give and I have no doubt that the money Ontario receives will be used to build more private clinics,” claimed Roebuck.

Moving forward, Roebuck said the health coalition will work with advocates and supporters to make their voices heard.

A rally against hospital privatization was held a few months ago, outside of MPP Bob Bailey’s office in Point Edward. Roebuck said she hasn’t heard anything from Bailey since then, but she has heard a lot of “energized” feedback from community members.

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