Ontario Health Coalition hosts Cornwall summit, discourages health care privatization
Posted: April 13, 2022
(April 11, 2022)
By: Shawna O’Neill, Belleville The Intelligencer
An online Emergency Summit was hosted by the Cornwall Health Coalition on Saturday, discussing alarming statistics pertaining to Ontario’s increasing privatization of health care.
A number of industry professionals spoke during the summit, as well as local politicians. With the provincial election less than two months away, some groups are sounding the alarm, discussing how the Doug Ford government is moving towards allowing for-profit, independent health facilities to operate as private hospitals.
In February, Ontario minister of health Christine Elliott discussed this venture during a press conference. The coalition has taken this single mention and used it to drive a provincewide campaign that has seen the kind of virtual event held for Cornwall Saturday take place across Ontario.
Award winning investigative journalist Linda McQuaig, who spoke during the summit, said this is a stunning development, seeing as private hospitals have been banned in Ontario since 1973 due to concerns over access inequality. She believes the Ford government is leveraging the backlog of surgeries for Ontario residents — which has grown since the start of the pandemic — to introduce and private, for-profit health facilities.
“This is why Canadians revere Medicare. It enshrines the principles of equality. No matter how rich or how poor you are, you are entitled to the best medical care we can offer,” said McQuaig, who eluded to various other systems in our society in which monetary incentives prioritize the wealthy.
Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, discussed the staggering statistics of mortality in long-term care homes during the pandemic, specifically in fall 2020 — especially among residents of private, for-profit facilities. Mehra detailed the unlivable conditions documented in a number of private homes, in which residents with COVID-19 were not properly isolated and were left without basic care. Residents, close to death, were found in soiled beds, and hadn’t been given necessary help with food and water.
“The Ford government… is also going to be setting up private surgical centres, private colonoscopies, and other operations,” said Michael Hurley, president of OCHU/CUPE, which represents several thousands of hospital workers. “They are going to be taking advantage of the fact that Ontario has the fewest hospital beds and staff… by virtue of the under-funding and under sourcing of this system for such a long time, rather than invest in it, rather than propose to build it up, rather than propose to staff it up, they will be proposing to move services to private clinics.”
Dr. Bernard Ho, an emergency and family physician currently working in Ottawa, also spoke during the summit. He discussed how challenges faced in the current public health-care system can happen in any system, and how there are public solutions. He also discussed how individuals advocating for private health-care facilities stand to financially benefit from them.
South Dundas Deputy Mayor Kirsten Gardner, who is vying for the Ontario Liberal Party nomination in Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, spoke about the state of health care locally, and how municipalities are struggling to hire more family physicians with no response from provincial officials.
“Privatization, the risk with that is it takes money away from our public health-care system. And those who suffer most, the fastest, are the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Sen. Bernadette Clement during the summit.
One of the summit hosts, Elaine MacDonald, encouraged residents to loudly consider this topic moving forward.