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Health coalition slams proposed restructuring

Posted: March 21, 2019

March 21, 2019 | Last Updated: March 21, 2019 9:44 PM EDT

Believing that patients will be negatively impacted in the long run, the Chatham-Kent Health Coalition is rallying the public to make their voices heard about the province’s proposed restructuring of the health-care system.

Approximately 30 people attended a town hall Thursday night at the Thames Campus Arena in Chatham to hear a rundown of the legislation, which would create a new “super agency” and consolidate Ontario’s 14 local health integration networks (LHINs), as well as other other organizations.

“This bill is poorly thought out,” said Shirley Roebuck, chair of the Chatham-Kent coalition. “We believe it will not serve the people of Ontario.”

The government made the announcement last month, with Health Minister Christine Elliott saying it will help improve efficiencies and eventually allow for more front-line care.

Elliott said the goal is to have 30 to 50 health teams set up, each responsible for up to 300,000 people. She added it won’t change how patients go to the doctor.

Roebuck said the public must demand to have input into Bill 74, the omnibus health bill that has gone to the committee stage.

She said it would open the door to further health-care consolidation and privatization as the new agency would see fit.

“There’s no end point to their powers,” she said, adding she’s also concerned about the possibility of private monopolies taking control of various services.

Roebuck stressed the opposition to the proposed changes has nothing to do with political party, but rather ensuring what’s best for patients and their families.

“We should not be making profit from the ill,” she said. “We’re going to fight until we drop about this.”

Admitting that LHINs can always be improved, she believes the Erie St. Clair LHIN has done so under its current leadership and questioned what efficiencies would be found by creating dozens of health teams across Ontario.

Noting she is realistic about the chances of stopping the bill in a majority Progressive Conservative government, Roebuck said the goal is to push for amendments.

Louis Rodrigues, representing the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, told the Chatham gathering that health care in the province is “at a crossroads.”

He said improving the system requires more investment, not restructuring, and urged people to think long term.

“We need to reach out to our neighbours. We need to reach out to our youth,” he said.

Thirty town halls will be taking place across the province to discuss the issue.

The Ontario Health Coalition is also planning a rally at Queen’s Park on April 30 at noon. Several buses from Chatham-Kent are expected, with plans still to be determined.

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