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RELEASE: Health Coalitions’ Joint Statement on COVID-19 and Public Health Care

Posted: March 24, 2020

(March 24, 2020)

Please find below an urgent call upon governments at every level in Canada to build capacity in the public health care, expand equity, and resist privatization in the face of COVID-19 from Provincial, Territorial and National Health Coalitions representing more than a million Canadians. Printable version is attached below.

Deeply concerned about deregulation of controls on private clinics, apps and telehealth developments that are controlled by for-profit corporations, and pro-privatization provincial governments in a number of provinces; Health Coalitions across Canada have developed the following joint statement. It is a warning from the groups that have been raising the alarm and advocating against the austerity measures, public hospital and downsizing and long-term care rationing that have robbed our health system of it resilience.  Public health care’s importance as an essential part of our social fabric is evident now, more than ever. Now, more than ever, the principles of public health care need to be upheld. Safeguarding public health care requires that health care be organized and governed in the public realm, as a pubic and non-profit service that is run in the public interest and not for private profit. 

We have already seen the damage that for-profit clinics have done to equitable access to care, charging thousands of dollars to patients unlawfully for services for which we have already paid in our public taxes, billing at prices up to five times those in our public health system for care, and charging seniors for extra unnecessary add-ons to make more profit. 

This statement calls upon our governments to urgently restore and build capacity to deal with the crisis, but to do it under public and non-profit governance. Already in Alberta we see that the provincial government has contracted the communications giant TELUS to do online primary care while cutting public health care services. In Ontario our government started developing new public hospital capacity in private for-profit entities that are not governed under the public hospitals act, leaving serious questions about safety, regulation, quality of care, transparency of governance, access to information, workforce planning and unionization. Just prior to the declaration of the pandemic, Ontario’s government introduced a new law that would enable the expansion of private hospitals. Thankfully it is on hold at the moment as normal legislative business has been delayed for the health crisis. In B.C. we are hearing that the regulation to stop private clinics from extra-billing patients may be lifted. In Quebec, the health coalition is also concerned about privatization.  

We will remain vigilant and we will not allow our governments and private for-profit health care corporations to use a crisis as cover for health care privatization. 

Thank you for reading and sharing,

Natalie Mehra

Executive Director

Ontario Health Coalition

________________________

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the extent to which our individual health is dependent on the health of everyone in our community. Public healthcare is our best defense against this crisis and others like it. However, our ability to endure crises and care for each other has been eroded through decades of austerity budgets, privatization and inadequate planning. Even during “normal times,” the health care system is at capacity.

While health care workers and communities are struggling to support each other, corporate interests are trying to profit. This must be resisted. The solution is not privatization. Instead, we should be strengthening universal health care and our collective ability to care for one another. As governments ramp up efforts to address the current crisis, Health Coalitions across Canada are calling for them to resist privatization and to uphold the foundational principles of equity and compassion that underlie our public health care system.

We call upon all levels of government to work together to reclaim and increase the capacity of
our public health care system to:

  • Address existing health inequities by removing barriers to access and scaling up
    services for marginalized communities
  • Restore capacity in our public hospitals by reopening facilities and beds that have been closed due to funding cuts and downsizing, and expand capacity under public and non-profit hospital governance
  • Follow the lead of Spain and bring for-profit health care facilities under public control to enable a rapid and streamlined response in the public interest
  • Improve supports for health care workers, including by adopting the strongest protective standards, enhancing recruitment and retention, and giving workers the resources and equipment they need
  • Ensure that all services are available free of charge and delivered publicly, including testing, vaccination, hospital stays and telehealth.

Signatories:
Alternatives North (NWT)                                            Health Coalition of NFLD & Labrador
BC Health Coalition                                                      Manitoba Health Coalition
Canadian Health Coalition                                          Nova Scotia Health Coalition
Coalition solidarité santé                                             Ontario Health Coalition
Friends of Medicare (Alberta)                                     PEI Health Coalition

Click here for printable version in English and French

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