‘Ontario didn’t vote for this’: Group protests cuts to health services
Posted: November 16, 2019
(November 13, 2019)
By: Elizabeth Payne, Ottawa Citizen
From long wait lists for long-term care to people being treated in hospital hallways and ambulances being unable to unload their patients at overcrowded hospitals, Ontario’s health system is under stress and underfunded, a coalition of health workers, caregivers, parents and others said Tuesday.
A handful of people with the Ottawa Health Coalition — which is affiliated with the Ontario Health Coalition, a group that advocates for public health care — braved the cold outside The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic campus Monday to protest cuts to health services and inadequate funding.
Albert Dupuis, co-chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition, said the organization is planning a rally at TD Place on Dec. 7 to send the message to the provincial government that the health system needs to be better funded.
“Ontario didn’t vote for this. The government doesn’t have a mandate for what it is doing to our health care system. (Ontarians) voted to end hallway medicine and you don’t end hallway medicine by cutting the funding levels for institutions that are already over strapped.”
The province has increased funding to hospitals and long-term care, but generally not at the rate of inflation, which means health institutions, which were already strapped, are trying to do more with less, said Dupuis, who works delivering medication at the General campus of The Ottawa Hospital.
Dupuis said he sees the results of underfunding, including people being treated in the hallway.
Christine Collins, who attended the protest, is sole caregiver to her elderly brother who has dementia and disabilities. She says he needs to be in long-term care but she is unable to even get him on a list.
“It is killing me,” she said.
The Ontario Health Coalition says the government announced plans to eliminate some public health units through planned amalgamations and make “real dollar cuts” to hospitals and long-term care homes.
Hayley Chazan, spokesperson for health minister Christine Elliott, said the government does not plan to amalgamate ambulance services. Starting in January, all municipalities will transition to a 70-30 cost sharing funding model for public health with the province, with the province funding 70 per cent. “In the first year, no public health unit will experience an increase over 10 per cent of current public health costs as a result of this cost-sharing change,” said Chazan. Municipalities received four per cent more for land ambulance services in 2019. Chazan said they “can expect continued growth” in 2020.
The province has backed away from some earlier announced efficiencies, including major changes to the way autism services are delivered in the province. It is in the process of revamping the health care system by getting rid of the LHINs (regional health integration organizations) and creating health teams, the first of which are expected to be announced at the end of this month.
It is unclear how provincial changes will reduce the number of people being treated in hospital hallways, but some hospitals are in crisis, with cancellations of day surgeries and long ambulance offload delays, among other things. Meanwhile, waiting lists for long-term care in the province are at record levels.