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Protesters call for pause on health-care bill

Posted: June 25, 2020

(June 24, 2020)

By: Chris Seto, The Record

KITCHENER — Motivated by fears around further privatization of health care in Ontario, members of the Waterloo Region Health Coalition held a rally Wednesday in Kitchener to sound the alarm over Bill 175.

Starting at noon, more than 20 people spread out along King Street East near Kitchener South-Hespeler MPP Amy Fee’s office, carrying signs and voicing concerns over the legislation also known as the Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act.

The bill was introduced in the legislature Feb. 25 and is currently undergoing a third reading.

When first introduced, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the bill would modernize the 1994 Home Care and Community Services Act. The new legislation promised to increase opportunities for people to get care in their own homes and remove barriers between different providers to deliver services more quickly and with better co-ordination.

Wednesday’s rally was one of 14 held around the province outside of Conservative MPPs’ offices, organized through the Ontario Health Coalition.

Local coalition co-chair Jim Stewart said now that the bill is undergoing its third reading, it’s likely too late to stop it from “being pushed through.” The focus of Wednesday’s rallies was to raise public awareness of the bill and get a dialogue going.

“What really concerns me, is why are they pushing forward this legislation right now in the middle of a pandemic?” he said. If passed, the bill will bring about big changes to how home care is provided across the province and the public needs to pay attention, he said.

Stewart said the bill will transfer control of home-care services to private corporations that will be delivering home care. These organizations will be able to change the fee structures and they won’t have to be accountable to the public, he said.

“This is not a meaningful improvement on health care. This is a further privatization of health care.”

Donna Evans, a retired nurse practitioner, was also lined up along the street waving a sign that read “Stop privatized home care.”

“Health care should not be something you profit from. As long as it’s privatized, profits will always be prioritized over the care to individuals,” she said, adding the proposed bill is very concerning to her.

“Unless we’re passionate and fight for it, our health care system will disappear.”

The Ontario Nurses Association also has serious concerns about Bill 175.

Vicki McKenna, president of the association, wrote in an email that the bill is being rushed through with limited input from stakeholders and the public.

“This legislation makes it easier for private-sector organizations to expand their role, it eliminates the Patient’s Bill of Rights for home and community care, and thus removes accountability, and also paves the way for private hospitals in Ontario to expand, increasing for-profit health care in Ontario.”

None of these changes would benefit those who depend on home and community care, she wrote.

Efforts were made to speak to MPP Fee about the issues raised by protesters. She was not available for an interview but her office provided a statement:

“During this pandemic, it has been clear the need for improvements to the home care system. I have heard from a number of constituents on this issue and I continue to advocate for legislation alongside my colleagues, that would remove long-standing barriers and outdated rules that have kept home and community care in a silo within the health care system. Our priority is to strengthen the publicly funded health care system and make it better for patients, families and their caregivers.”

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