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North Simcoe residents troubled by proposed health care changes

Posted: March 21, 2019

The proposed restructuring of Ontario’s health-care system has local residents concerned.

Legislation tabled in late February revealed the government’s plan to revamp the current system organized around local health integration networks (LHINs) and create a super agency called Ontario Health.

Twenty existing agencies will be absorbed into Ontario Health, including 14 LHINs, eHealth Ontario and Cancer Care Ontario.

The People’s Health Care Act, 2019, which was tabled at Queen’s Park on Feb. 26, gives Health Minister Christine Elliott extensive power. This has many people worried.

“The unilateral ability of the minister of health to make changes is scary. She can privatize, amalgamate, separate, merge or close services. She has exclusive power, with no other input,” said Don Copping, a concerned north Simcoe resident.

“Governments always have that power. The thing is, Ford’s government is actually using it.”

Copping and friend Fran Moreau are worried about many aspects of these proposed health care changes. They have teamed up with the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) and organized a town hall meeting to inform the public about their concerns.

“What the (government) is pushing through at breakneck speed is extraordinary powers for the minister, the cabinet and the super agency,” said Natalie Mehra, of the OHC.

“The powers in this health care restructuring bill are unprecedented.”

A town hall meeting is scheduled for April 4 at 7 p.m. at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre.

Mehra will be on hand to provide more details on the legislation and its potential impact on Midland, Penetanguishene, Tiny and Tay.

Under this bill, hospitals, long-term care facilities, home-care agencies and other health services providers will be encouraged to form integrated care entities. The goal is to have between 30 and 50 health teams in the province.

“What they really are is 30 to 50 conglomerates that will be made up of mergers, amalgamation, takeovers, closures and transfers of services,” said Mehra.

“I am extremely concerned this vision will have Midland, Penetanguishene and the area piled in with Barrie and that the local communities will lose services,” said Mehra. “There is nothing in the act to protect local services at all.”

Each one of these teams will be responsible for around 300,000 people. However, that could vary depending on geography.

The North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN currently oversees services for just under 480,000 people and is responsible for $880 million in funding.

The OHC is co-ordinating a rally at Queen’s Park on April 30. If there is enough local interest in attending this rally, Copping and Moreau are willing to charter a bus to Toronto.

“If Ford is allowed to implement these health changes without public input, what we will have left in 10 years is the scariest thing I have ever even considered,” said Copping.

“If you don’t influence it before it happens, it is too late.”

Mehra is calling for Ontarians to contact Ford and their local MPP and voice their concerns over the pending legislation.

“There is nothing in the act to protect democracy or public process,” said Mehra.

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