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LETTER: privatizing essential public health care unlawful, says health coalition chair

Posted: October 8, 2020

(October 7, 2020)

By: GuelphToday Staff, GuelphToday

The Ontario Health Coalition is having a province-wide press conference and motorcade on Thursday, Oct. 8 at the corner of Oxford and Liverpool streets in Guelph at 11 a.m. close to Norfolk Manor Retirement Home to persuade our policymakers that privatizing essential health services is against the law.

Creeping privatization has shown neither to protect publicly funded Medicare nor provide safe quality of care for all, regardless of income status. Auditors’ reports on health outcomes and now Covid-19, have demonstrated the destruction of continuity, the increasing costs to the public system without improvements, and inefficiencies.

Since the 1990s, political parties have downloaded those expenses to the public purse directly and get them off the finance books. Corporate markets have been quick to respond and their shareholders do not want to pay for preparedness for safe management in a serious pandemic. Covid-19 proves this. Please join the motorcade.

Consider some facts of great concern in Long Term Care (LTC). Since COVID began no dynamic change has occurred in LONG TERM CARE (LTC). Insufficient PPE still exists in some LTC homes, as surveyed in 75 LTC homes. The province only hired 150 extra infection control nurses for nursing homes, not even one per home. The hours of care per resident have not changed. Three and one half to four hours/resident of care is recommended in research by RNAO, ONA and OCHU and in LTC inquest recommendations.

Depending on the home, it is most often less than three.  Income for caregivers, even with an extra four to five dollars per hour, does not equate full-time work for workers who can only work one job nor does it incent staff retention needed for safe quality of care. If members of family councils submit a complaint about care in LTC, the final decision of the Review Board can not be repealed (Bill 175). Bills 175 and 124 were recently rushed through 3rd reading to become law.

They have blocked all democratic inputs from the public, from the front-line staff, from patients and their families and denied equitable income for nurses. Now the Commission on Long Term Care is delayed again to April 2021.

In mental health, Guelph welcomed better coordination of services under one roof. However, during COVID more persons are experiencing depression. Persons with special needs include adults and young people with pre-existing or developing mental health challenges. They struggle with changes in supportive connections. A few died as police perceived them as a community threat. Schools have less staff to deal with special needs. Stress increases in situations that threaten job security.

In hospitals, COVID costs are strangling. They had no flow of dollars until July and August. Now they are at 100 per cent plus capacity and the second wave just started and they are in deficit which is illegal.

Unfortunately, Ontario insists we are in a crisis so it can permit the cabinet to create orders without Parliament approval for the next two years! That is a legal but undemocratic ploy. Are we really in a continuing crisis? Current statistics on COVID show demographic change.

Assessment Centres are experiencing long line ups in second round. No funding for expansion was preplanned. Also, expansion needs a triage plan to separate those most seriously impacted by COVID from those worried about having COVID.

The plan turns out to be one of increased privatization of an essential service. One is to continue with current LTC operators. Another is to pay pharmacies to do COVID testing. This is another way to make you pay twice for your health care through taxes plus user fees.

Whether a pharmacist is paid to do COVID testing by the Government or the client, it is privatization of an essential service and contrary to the Canada Health Act. Tax dollars need to be spent in the public system, not the private system.

There is a better plan. Many hospital labs have capacity to run tests. The Cabinet’s new powers could open them temporarily. Soon the point of service 90-minute result test, recently approved by Health Canada, will be available. This can help the public system rise above the challenge. We do not need to pay pharmacies.

Please join the motorcade on Oct. 8.

Magee McGuire (Co-Chair Ontario Health Coalition, Guelph Wellington)

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