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Proposed health care changes could create ‘chaos’ for decades to come

Posted: March 26, 2019

Ontario Health Coalition warns of looming privatization in Ontario at Kitchener city hall Tuesday night

Mar 26, 2019

KITCHENER — Proposed changes to the provincial health care system could create “chaos” that would last for decades if passed, according to the Ontario Health Coalition.

Executive Director Natalie Mehra was the keynote speaker at a health care town hall meeting in Kitchener Tuesday night, and said the changes proposed under Bill 74 — The People’s Health Care Act — could open the door to privatization in this province.

“This is a massive restructuring bill, the size of which we have never seen,” said Mehra.

Unveiled in February, the changes are aimed at making the health system easier for patients to navigate, according to the PC government.

Ontario currently has a large network of provincial and regional agencies, oversight bodies and an estimated 1,800 health service provider organizations — and the Progressive Conservative government says it creates confusion for both patients and providers trying to navigate the system.

Under the plan, 20 existing agencies will be absorbed into a single superagency called Ontario Health, including 14 Local Health Integration Networks, Cancer Care Ontario and eHealth. The legislation passed second reading on March 21.

At the government announcement last month, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the future health care system will see fewer patients treated in hospital hallways, more seniors receiving care in their homes, and fewer unnecessary trips to emergency rooms.

The government will also move to digitize the process by allowing online booking for appointments, virtual appointments, and online access to health records.

Bill 74 could give the health minister the power to order mergers, amalgamations, closure of services, the transfer of services and the closure of health care providers, Mehra warned.

She also raised concerns over the lack of transparency with the PC government around the formation of the board of directors of the Ontario Health super agency, which met for the first time earlier this month.

Heather Whiteside, a researcher from the University of Waterloo who focuses on public-private partnerships (so-called P3s), said P3 partnerships are a common method of privatization in health care, and could be expanded under Bill 74.

Instead of encouraging competition, innovation and lower costs, P3s routinely lead to higher costs, more delays and are a riskier investment overall, she said. Research has shown they can increase project costs by up to 16 per cent.

“The P3 model is a long-run drain on resources,” she said.

The health care coalition is planning a rally at Queen’s Park in Toronto on April 30 to convince legislators to change their planned overhaul of the health care system. Mehra acknowledged portions of the bill will no doubt pass given the government’s majority, but she hopes to win some amendments.

“I’ve never seen a worse piece of health care legislation,” she said.

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