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Outrage over plans to restructure health care

Posted: April 9, 2019

April 9, 2019 | Last Updated: April 9, 2019 3:49 PM EDT

TIMMINS — The prospect of the Ontario Conservatives ramming through legislation in order to introduce privatized health care in Ontario was a grave concern to those who attended a town hall style meeting at the Timmins Museum Saturday.

The meeting, which was attended by about 50 people, was hosted by the Ontario Health Coalition.

“We are holding scores of meetings across the province … There’s tremendous anger and concern about Bill 74 and what it will do to health care,” said Doug Allan, board member with the Ontario Health Coalition.

Allan said the problems with the health-care system in Ontario exist largely because of capacity issues stemming from the fact the government here spends about $400 per person less on hospitals, $500 less per person on health-care as a whole.

“The result of this is predictable,” he said. “We have overflowing hospitals; we have seen increases in the wait list for long-term care from 25,000 to 35,000 people in just two years alone.

“All of this requires capacity and that’s what people thought they were voting for when Doug Ford promised to end hallway health care. Instead, of getting a commitment to improve capacity, we are getting a commitment to privatize health care.”

While Ford hasn’t actually announced plans to privatize health-care, Allan said the proposed massive restructuring to health care suggests that is the direction the government is moving.

“There are tremendous powers that have been given to the minister and to the new super agency to restructure health care and to create a new form of health-care organization. All of this permits in multiple, multiple ways privatization of our health-care services. This is a very serious concern that we have.

“The minister would be given, if this bill is passed … huge powers to restructure health care, with almost no public accountability.”

Allan said the Ford government revealed its intention to restructure Ontario’s health–care system only after it was elected and provided a limited opportunity for the public to offer feedback.

“We got two days of rushed consultations and definitely with very clear signs they’re embarrassed about what they’re doing and they want to talk about it as little as possible,” he said.

“Fifteen hundred people applied for standing in the public hearings; 30 people got in. Seven thousand people then wrote in their concerns about Bill 74. Seven thousand? Are those going to be read? I doubt it very much.”

MPP Gilles Bisson said it is a “travesty” that a bill that will have widespread impact on health care is pushed through with little opportunity for input from the public or people who work in the industry.

“This government ran without a platform,” said Bisson. “At no time did they tell anybody in Ontario they were planning to make a major overhaul of the health-care system which includes losing local control to larger entities, whatever they may be, and privatization.

“The very least this government should have done to respect this thing we call democracy. They should have sent that bill on the road for two or three weeks. It should have been in Dryden, it should have been in Thunder Bay, in Timmins and Cornwall, and different places, so that the public and those who work in our health-care system, those who understand the system, from the hospitals to the home services to long-term care could have gone and said, ‘Here’s what you got right, here’s what you got wrong,’ and at least if they’re going to do a reform of the health-care system, you do it knowing what the pitfalls are … at least try to make it work.

“We had two days of hearings at Queen’s Park. Who from Timmins went there? Who from Sudbury? Who from Thunder Bay? Northern Ontario didn’t have anybody down at those public hearings other than the committee members like France Gélinas (NDP MPP for Nickel Belt) and Sol Mamakwa (NDP MPP for Kiiwetinoong).

“But the public was not consulted … and for them to short shrift the public and not give us an access to talking about what they’re going to do with your tax dollars and my tax dollars is wrong.

“We’re about to pass a bill next week, or the week after, and put it into law where the public has been completely shut out of the process and I think that’s the biggest travesty of all, because this is the reform of our health-care system.”

Several of those who attended shared horror stories of privatization in the United States, where patients would receive medical bills or estimates for services in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Others expressed concerns that the government’s plan to replace local health integration networks with massive “super agencies” will place the focus on large urban centres and erode services at hospitals in smaller communities.

Karen Campbell, a cancer survivor from Iroquois Falls, said she has already experienced issues with local hospitals in short supplies of medical equipment and services when she was undergoing treatment.

“When you’re in Sudbury at the cancer lodge, it’s a non-stop turnover of people coming in there, so I would hate to see any services lost that could help diagnose people with cancer,” she said.

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