‘Privatization poaches medical professionals’: Local health coalitions sound alarm following comment by Health Minister
Posted: February 27, 2022
(February 25, 2022)
By: Catherine Whitnall, NorthumberlandNews
Local health coalition groups are working together to unmask the dangers of privatized health care.
On Thursday (Feb. 24), members of the Kawartha-Haliburton, Peterborough and Northumberland health coalitions particpated in a virtual ‘call to action’ press conference to pull back the curtain on recent announcements made by the province that will impact the future of health care.
The main trigger behind the event – as well as several others across the province – involved a remark made by Minister of Health Christine Elliott in early February regarding the reopening of health-care services as the province progresses through the COVID-19 pandemic.
During her speech in Ajax, Elliott stated the province is “opening up pediatric surgeries, cancer screenings, making sure that we can let independent health facilities operate, private hospitals, all of those things are possible because we do have the capacity.”
“The statement was made under the guise of getting rid of the surgical backlog,” said Sara Labelle, a medical lab technician and chair of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) hospital professional division who spoke during the event. “There is no way that opening up privatized care will have a demonstrated impact.”
In fact, claimed Labelle, doing so will most likely have a negative effect.
“The private model of care takes beds away from the public sector,” said Labelle, adding it also “poaches” medical professionals contributing to staff shortages already plaguing hospitals.
Labelle added the model also “skims the cream” in that triage is “based on who can afford to go to the front of the line” versus the current public method of providing care to those who need it most regardless of their finances.
“The quality of care is not the same nor are private clinics held to the same safety standards,” claimed Labelle, adding many are not equipped to respond to emergencies, such as a patient requiring resuscitation.
Peterborough Health Coalition chair Roy Brady, questions the cost of the province’s Independent Health Facilities. Should a corporation or group of medical professionals decide to open such a clinic, they would most likely depend heavily on government subsidies, taking dollars away from public hospitals not to mention the aforementioned staff.
Notwithstanding is the fact that new private hospitals have essentially been banned since 1973. The province did grandfather existing hospitals but many have closed their doors. Only three continue to operate and are limited in the services they can provide, such as the Don Mills Surgical Centre which conducts small numbers of walk-in day surgeries.
Haliburton CKL Long-Term Care Coalition co-chair Bonnie Roe said people need only look to the current state of long-term care to identify the negative effects of privatizing care.
“For-profit long-term care has held a monopoly for decades,” said Roe, noting the pandemic simply shone a “very bright spotlight” on an already broken system. “We have one of the highest rates of insufficient staffing and it’s been going on for decades.”
Roe noted Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott’s recent announcement of a $41 million investment into long-term care in Haliburton County is actually a double-edged sword. The funding is desperately needed, said Roe. However, it’s being directed to for-profit long-term care facilities.
Northumberland Health Care Coalition co-chair Linda Mackenzie-Nicholas is equally concerned about the equitable distribution of provincial support. Of the 384 long-term care beds recently announced, more than half are going to for-profit companies while municipally owned and not-for-profit facilities continue to battle chronic underfunding.