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Ontario healthcare bill spurs local action

Posted: April 1, 2019

April 1, 2019 | Last Updated: April 1, 2019 10:49 PM EDT

Sault Ste. Marie Health Coalition will hold a town hall meeting on Friday, April 5 as part of a province-wide campaign to educate the public about the Ontario government’s plan to restructure the provincial healthcare system and create a new “super agency”.
The Ontario Health Coalition has assisted the meeting, along with more than 20 other town halls across Ontario. Marie Dellavedova, a member of the local branch of the Health Coalition said announcement of Bill 74, the new health care bill, has prompted members in the Sault to take action though the branch has been dormant for the last year.
“We are having a town hall meeting here in Sault Ste. Marie because our community has a right to know what this legislation will do to our local public health care services,” Dellavedova told Sault This Week.
“The new law gives the government unfettered powers to order costly mega-mergers, transfers and closures of health care services, including hospitals, long-term care homes, home care, community care, mental health and addictions services, community health centres and nonprofit family health teams, etc.,” said Dellavedova.
“The Super Agency can sell vital health care services to private for-profit corporations.”
Speakers, including Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra, will be at the town hall to explain the legislation and the plans for restructuring the system, including the impacts they will have on the province’s health care system. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and share their concerns, and Mehra will lead a discussion about what the public can do in response to the bill.
Dellavedova said all concerned residents are invited.
“The Ford government drafted this legislation in secret,” she said. “This town hall meeting may be the only opportunity for the public to find out what this legislation actually holds in store for us before it becomes law.”
The goal is that those who attend the meeting will leave with a good understanding of the impact the legislation will have on their health care and that of their loved ones. “They will be able to discuss and decide what we, as members of the public, can do to protect our local public health care services. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to plan a course of action to follow in order to protect local health care,” said Dellavedova.
The government has limited public hearings to only two part days, being held only in Toronto, and provided only two days’ notice.
Bill 74 “is the most dangerous health care legislation in terms of privatization and risks to local services we have ever read, and it has the fewest public protections ever,” says the Ontario Health Coalition in its notice to members about the hearings.
The legislation provides for no public access to documentation, no right to appeals, no requirements that providers measure and make plans to meet population needs for health care, no protection for local health services and it makes no effort to ensure patients have access to health care, Dellavedova said in reference to those issues.
Additionally, it provides no protections for the workers who will be impacted by the upheaval of the health care system.
The many town halls across the province will culminate in a massive rally at Queen’s Park planned for Tuesday, April 30 at noon.
Sault Ste. Marie Health Coalition has been involved in several campaigns to improve or save local health care by such actions as rallies, town hall meetings, pre-budget presentations, and referenda.
The local coalition and the OHC played a role in keeping Matthews Memorial Hospital open, Dellavedova said. Despite the local group’s recent inactivity, she and other members hope the current changes to the health care system will encourage more members of the community to get involved in rebuilding the local coalition.
The local town hall will be held on Friday, April 5 at 7 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion.

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