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Kingston Health Coalition pushes back against health-care privatization

Posted: March 2, 2022

(February 28, 2022)

By: Brigid Goulem, Whig Standard

Local health-care advocates gathered virtually last week to push back against the increasing privatization of Ontario’s health-care system.

The Kingston chapter of the Ontario Health Coalition hosted a public call on Friday, Feb. 25, to raise alarms about the growing privatization of the provincial health-care system under the Conservative government.

Among the examples of creeping privatization, speakers cited the growth of private hospitals, the clawback of OHIP+ and the reliance of the province on private sector partners such as Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart in developing the COVID-19 testing and vaccination response.

The oft-cited argument for privatization from the province is that it is either more efficient when private companies run services or that the government cannot afford to provide these services.

According to Randy Robinson, the Ontario director for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, these arguments do not stand up.

“We’ve been hearing that the government doesn’t have the capital to invest in things like long-term care and, therefore, we have to bring in private investment,” Robinson explained Friday.

However, Robinson points out that “the government has almost infinite capacity to raise capital, and always at lower prices than the private sector can,” suggesting that not only can the government raise the required money, but that ultimately it would be at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

In addition to public development being less expensive to begin with, Robinson points out that the profit motive of private companies add an extra cost to privately funded projects.

“In 2014, the (Ontario) auditor did a study of 74 private infrastructure projects. She found that the infrastructure projects were developed at a profit, and then somehow the companies found a way to give themselves a 28 per cent tip on top of that,” Robinson said.

According to the Kingston Health Coalition, the impact of privatized health-care services can be seen in the quality of health care Ontarians receive.

“Compared to other provinces on a per capita basis, we have the lowest health-care funding. We also have the lowest hospital funding, the fewest hospital beds and the fewest registered nurses, so not too much to be proud of in that area,” he said.

The impact of the privatization on long-term care homes was highlighted by Kathleen Brooks, a personal support worker and president of Unifor Local 8300.

According to Brooks, health-care workers in privately run long-term homes were allotted only six minutes on average to care for each patient.

“Six — that’s the number of minutes we had to ready each resident, from wakeup right through to breakfast. This includes gently waking our residents, washing them, dressing them, grooming them, allowing them time to use the washroom, transferring them to a wheelchair and taking them down to breakfast,” Brooks said. “These big chains were making money for their shareholders every quarter on the backs of the sick, the elderly and the staff, though poor working conditions, poor staff ratios and poor wages remain.”

For patients, Brooks said the impact of this fragile system became clear once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. A study by the Ontario Science Table in January 2021 found that for-profit nursing homes had 78 per cent more deaths than non-profit homes.

While the Ontario Health Coalition and it’s regional chapters will continue to push back against the growing privatization of health care, Jardin is urging Ontarians to consider asking for more.

“I want (the health-care system) expanded to include pharmacare, dental care, vision care and mental health care supports. People need these services,” Joan Jardin of the Kingston Health Coalition said.

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