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‘We are seeing the creation of a two-tier system of health care in Ontario’

Posted: March 16, 2022

(March 14, 2022)

By: Robert Williams, The Record

WATERLOO REGION — A provincewide call to action on the alleged privatization of health care will see a series of emergency summits held across Ontario over the next month.

Kicking off next week in Ottawa and running in 20 different cities across the province over March and April, the Ontario Health Coalition — a network of over 400 member organizations including seniors’ groups, unions and non-profit community agencies — will host a series of summits to launch the “biggest fightback we have ever mounted.”

The Waterloo Region Health Coalition — the region’s local chapter — will host its summit on April 5, with a series of keynote speakers set to address the “subtle privatization” of the public health-care system.

“There is this relentless and ongoing strategy by the Conservative government to privatize the public health care system,” said Jim Stewart, co-chair of the Waterloo Region Health Coalition. “How they do it is they make these very quiet announcements, they pass legislation, and what occurs is the breaking down of our public health-care infrastructure.”

The summit is timed to roll out in the lead-up to the upcoming provincial election, when Conservative Premier Doug Ford will look to win a second term in office when voters head to the polls on June 2.

The organization said it intends to “set the threat to our public health care as a key election issue and push all political parties to make commitments to safeguard public health care, stop privatization and address the urgent needs to improve care and staffing,” in a release sent out on Monday.

It is not the first time the coalition has voiced its concerns on the privatization issue. With the decimation of long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has long called for the province to allocate more resources to its publicly funded homes.

The province has been in the process of awarding 30-year capital funding deals and operational licenses for 30,000 new long-term care beds and upgrading thousands more outdated long-term care beds.

For-profit, non-profit and municipal-run organizations providing long-term care have been able to apply for the bed allocations.

However, in a report released last November, the coalition found most of the bed licenses in progress — over 16,000 — were being awarded to for-profit homes. They found almost 14,000 of the in-progress beds were going to non-profit and municipal homes.

Stewart is also concerned with the growth of for-profit private clinics, which he said will move resources for diagnostic and surgical floors away from public hospitals to private spaces.

The long-term impact, he said, is longer wait times for patients to enter and move through the health-care system, and fewer resources to treat them once they’re there.

“Ultimately, we are seeing the creation of a two-tier system of health care in Ontario,” he said. “We are terrified that private clinics and private hospitals are going to be established, and we know these facilities just don’t do a better job, moving resources away from a public model that desperately needs it.”

Those interested in taking part in the summit can register in advance online. The speaker series will include patient advocates, a member of the Ontario Nurses Association and an Ontario health-care investigative researcher.

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