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Ontario Health Coalition concerned with shift to private clinics

Posted: August 31, 2022

(August 30, 2022)

By: Darren Taylor, SooToday

The Ontario Health Coalition is expressing its concerns over the provincial government’s plans for Ontario’s health care system.

Announced August 18 by Health Minister Sylvia Jones, the plan includes a move to increase publicly covered surgeries at private clinics to make up for backlogs in surgeries.

The OHC suspected the provincial government would make such an announcement before the June 2 provincial election, said Albert Dupuis, Blind River-based OHC spokesperson for the Sault and Algoma District, speaking to SooToday.

“We did about 20 press conferences leading up to the drop of the writ all over the province where we invited experts to talk about the state of Ontario health care and the reasons for its shortcomings. The primary reason for the shortcomings is that Ontario underfunds its health care by many billions of dollars per year on a per capita basis compared to the spending in other Canadian provinces.”

“Their solution now is to open up private health care facilities to solve a problem that could be solved if our public system was properly funded,” Dupuis said.

The government’s critics have said emergency department closures in Ontario – in some cases for days at a time – as well as surgery backlogs are due to a nursing shortage.

Sault Area Hospital has not experienced an emergency department closure.

Under Ontario’s Bill 124, nurses are receiving a one per cent pay raise per year.

“Asking nurses to accept a one per cent wage increase when inflation is running around eight per cent is asking people to work for a pay cut of seven per cent so why should we be doing that to people who worked as hard as they did during the pandemic?” Dupuis said.

“The nurses are getting tired because of the understaffing. It’s affecting their personal lives. Why don’t we pay people what they’re worth?”

The OHC is a grassroots organization that champions public health care.

“We know that these private clinics have been notorious for double billing, extracting extra fees, allowing people to jump the queue if they’re willing to pay more. It’s not to say that you won’t be able to go into a facility and have a procedure done and just use your OHIP card (as the province has stated) but it’s very likely, if you look at history, they’re offering faster service to those who will pay up front,” Dupuis said.

To free up beds in hospitals, the government’s plan calls for sending patients waiting for long-term care beds to a home not of their choosing.

Dupuis said the government may send such patients to LTC homes that have poor track records in caregiving.

“This is a huge concern.”

The OHC, in a release, states that it is “morally repugnant.”

Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra has stated that the government does not wish to force patients but to enable them to have “conversations” in which patients are told that they would be better off if they were moved to long term care homes. 

“This is untrue,” the OHC stated in its release.

“They have always been able to have conversations with patients and indeed coercive tactics have been a major problem. The legislation clearly gives new powers to assess the patient without their consent, to send their personal information to an array of long-term care homes, including information about their health and mental status without their consent, and to admit them into a long-term care home not of their choosing without their consent,” the OHC said.

As reported Tuesday, the government will pass on public hearings for legislation that would allow hospital patients awaiting long-term care to be transferred to a nursing home without their consent. The Progressive Conservative government passed a motion Monday to advance a bill on the matter without having it considered by committee or be subject to public hearings. 

The OHC has been in contact with the province regarding its concerns but its position hasn’t changed, Dupuis said.

“I think you’re probably going to see rallies,” Dupuis said when asked what more the OHC intends to do in its fight against the province’s health care plan.

“To top it off we’re saying none of this is necessary if we just properly funded our public institutions.”

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