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North Bay council urges the province to rescind Bill 60

Posted: June 8, 2023

(June 7 2023)

By: Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles, North Bay Nugget

Henri Giroux, chairman of the North Bay Health Coalition, garnered enough support from council to pass a motion to lobby the province to rescind Bill 60.

But it didn’t come with unanimous support.

Mayor Peter Chirico, Coun. Gary Gardiner and Mark King voted against the motion that would see council call on the province to rescind Bill 60.

Bill 60, otherwise known as Your Health Act, has drawn criticism across the province including in council chambers.

The health-reform bill will allow more private clinics to offer certain public-funded surgeries as a way to cut down long wait times for health care and reduce a massive backlog of surgeries.

Chirico told council during Tuesday’s meeting he didn’t think this was the proper locale for this discussion.

He said while Bill 60 could have a local impact he would like to see council deal with what they’re responsible for – municipal issues.

In the same breath he said Bill 60 has already passed and received royal ascent.

“It’s done,” Chirico told council. “I’m very supportive of the investments we’ve made into the hospital to retain and attract doctors and nurses. We are doing well.”

Chirico acknowledged there are wait times in the emergency room.

As of Wednesday, at midnight the average wait time in North Bay’s emergency room was six hours and 29 minutes and the longest wait time is 11 hours and 18 minutes.

Deputy Mayor Maggie Horsfield put forward the motion, which was seconded by Coun. Justine Mallah, calling on the provincial government “to reconsider its proposal to create private for-profit hospitals and clinics and rescind Bill 60.”

A copy of the resolution is being forwarded to the Premier of Ontario Doug Ford, Minister of Health, Minister Vic Fedeli, Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, Rural Ontario Municipalities Association and Ontario Small Urban Municipalities.

The motion comes after Giroux, made a presentation to council during Tuesday’s council meeting.

He rang the alarm bells and issued a stark warning that funding will be further lost and the already dwindling number of health care workers working in public health institutions will be poached by for-profit clinics.

“It’s already well documented that non-hospital based for-profit medical clinics will divert resources from public sector to the private, for-profit sector,” Giroux said.

“Private clinics will probably be more of day shift and higher pay job that would entice health care workers to leave the public system. There is no real protection against staff poaching from our local public hospitals.”

Giroux, who worked in long-term care for decades, said Canada has no surplus of health care workers.

“Ontario has the worst staffing crisis we have ever seen.”

He told council the province capping nurses wages at one per cent also didn’t help attract and keep qualified staff working in the field.

“In Northern Ontario we see it every day in public hospital and long-term care that employers are poaching to get staff in their own facilities with rewards and higher pay.”

Giroux said this will particularly hurt Northern Ontario communities already struggling to recruit staff.

“There’s no real public accountability and poor enforcement in the existing private clinics.”

Giroux said he would like to see the provincial investment into private clinics go toward public health care institutions to improve services.

He said operating rooms hours are currently operating on an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule.

Giroux questions why funding wouldn’t be given to increase hours to at least 9 p.m.

“If that happened the backlog would be gone in three months.”

Giroux also raised caution about what could soon be happening in communities like West Nipissing and Mattawa.

He said emergency rooms across the province are reducing hours or shutting down during certain days of the week due to not enough staff.

“Who is to say it will not happen in Sturgeon Falls and Mattawa. We’re already waiting 16 to 18 hours for service. The problem will only get worse. We might have to start travelling for health care.”

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