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Ontario government pushing for privatized health care

Posted: March 20, 2022

(March 18, 2022)

By: Doreen Nicoll, The Hamilton Spectator

Picketers outside MMP Donna Skelly's Mountain office protesting health care privatization. New initiatives from the Ford government will make matters work and the Ontario Health Coalition is promoting awareness.

In Ontario, the GDP per capita hit its historic high in 2019. According to Randy Robinson, Ontario director for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, there is more money in the province than when Ontario created Medicare, built the 400-series highways or set up the community college system.

On a per-capita basis, Ontario has the lowest health-care funding, lowest hospital funding, fewest hospital beds and fewest nurses.

According to Robinson, “When it comes to program spending, Ontario spends $2,000 less per person per year than the average of the other provinces.”

With 15 million people living in Ontario, the Ford government would need to spend an additional $30 billion each year just to be average.

A federal government injection of $145 billion into pandemic-related supports in Ontario meant COVID-19 had little effect on the Ontario budget. Despite this strong economy, the government is not making the effort to fund public services.

According to the minister of finance, the provincial debt to GDP ratio is at pre-COVID levels. Currently, revenues are $19.5 billion higher than the government estimated a year ago.

However, according to the Financial Accountability Office (FAO), spending is not on track to keep up with inflation, population growth, or the reality an aging population requires more health care. The province’s own budgets and updates confirm this.

Knowing the strength of Ontario’s financial situation, one would hope Minister of Health Christine Elliott was experiencing cognitive dissonance when she announced Feb. 1 that the provincial government intends to bring in independent health facilities to operate private hospitals in Ontario. This is the first step to privatizing public health-care services across Ontario.

Since the inception of Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) in 1972, private for-profit hospitals have not been allowed to exist.

Instead, independent health facilities were brought in to get around the ban on private for-profit hospitals. Most of these are ultrasound and X-ray facilities.

However, 25 are surgical and diagnostic clinics that Elliott confirmed could operate as private for-profit hospitals to help clear backlogs.

With all of the gaslighting that is going on, it’s important to remember that it was years of austerity and the downsizing of public hospitals that caused these backlogs.

The public system has ample capacity to handle the backlog of diagnostics and surgeries. Ford needs to provide funding rather than diverting it to private for-profit clinics.

Instead of eliminating annual licence plate sticker fees, take that $1 billion and hire 11,958 new nurses. Then, repeal Bill 124 which caps wage increases at one per cent for three years.

Raise personal support workers to a living wage. Then, draft a bill ensuring part-time workers, often with more than one employer, receive benefits commensurate with hours worked plus mileage. These changes would stem the exodus from the public health-care system.

The FAO announced Ontario’s 2021 budget will reduce overall program spending by $1,281 per person by the end of the decade. The void between expenditures and revenue needed to maintain services at current below average levels will reach $18 billion.

Halton and Hamilton residents are working with the Ontario Health Coalition to protect and preserve Ontario’s public health-care system. They oppose privatization of health care and are making it an election issue.

Register to attend the HamiltonHC Summit April 9 at 10:30 a.m. here.

For more information, contact: jlebon@sympatico.ca

Register to attend the HaltonHC Summit April 19 at 7 p.m. here.

For more information: http://ontariohealthcoalitionhalton.org/

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