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Health coalition town halls planned for Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent

Posted: February 9, 2023

(February 9, 2023)

By: Tyler Kula, The Sarnia Observer

Local Ontario Health Coalition virtual town halls are planned this month, urging people to call for an end to further health-care system privatization.

Shirley Roebuck with the Sarnia-Lambton Health Coalition organized a demonstration outside Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey's office in Point Edward on Nov. 3, 2022. (Tyler Kula/Sarnia Observer)

Local Ontario Health Coalition virtual town halls are planned this month to urge people to call for an end to further health-care system privatization.

“We’re hoping that a lot of people join us by Zoom and we’ll plan next steps,” said Shirley Roebuck, chair of the coalition’s Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent and Wallaceburg chapters.

In January, it was announced Ontario is expanding the private delivery of public health care by funding clinics to perform more cataract surgeries, MRI and CT scans, colonoscopies, hip and knee replacements, and other procedures.

That move, which government officials have said is an attempt to ease pressure on the hospital system, could lead to the decimation of hospital surgical programs if the orthopedic procedures that make up a large portion of surgeries in hospitals go elsewhere, Roebuck warned.

“Of course you’re going to lose staff, of course you are,” she said about the three-step plan expected to take effect over the next two years.

She noted patients, who government officials said will still pay through OHIP at the private clinics, are sometimes also pressured to purchase add-ons and upgrades at private clinics.

“Of course, these private clinics are designed to make profit,” said Roebuck, also warning patients with medical complications would be better served in hospitals — and may not even be seen in private clinics — in the event something goes wrong.

“It’s better. It’s safer,” she said.

Roebuck instead called for the government to invest in reopening recently closed operating rooms, surgical and intensive care beds at hospitals elsewhere in the province while hiring more staff, repealing the wage-limiting legislation known as Bill 124, and boostinst provincial health-care spending to more closely resemble spending per capita, and as a percentage of gross domestic product, in other provinces.

Ontario was at or near the bottom of the scale in 2019 — the most recent data available — information from the health coalition said.

Town halls are planned for Chatham-Kent on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m., via, and for Sarnia-Lambton on Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. via

Similar town halls were held in communities across Ontario before the Christmas holidays, and another dozen or so are planned this month, Roebuck said.

“We’re hopeful that people contact their MPPs and voice displeasure,” she said. “The more pressure we put on the Tory caucus, it might be plausible that (Premier Doug) Ford will pull back on his plans.”

Roebuck also said the extra $46.1 billion in new health-care dollars offered this week by the federal government to the provinces over 10 years is relatively low when split between jurisdictions and individual hospitals.

“That’s not going to fix very much,” she said, noting the money doesn’t have strings attached.

Roebuck also called the offer a missed opportunity to help remedy public health care in the country.

She said she hopes to also recruit more volunteers for the health coalition chapters, noting there are about 50 members in Sarnia-Lambton, 30 members in Chatham-Kent, and 10 members in Wallaceburg.

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