‘We don’t need to privatize health care’: Penetanguishene residents voice concern about direction of public health-care system
Posted: August 31, 2023
(August 29, 2023)
By: Andrew Mendler, Midland Mirror
Don Copping and Fran Moreau are growing increasingly concerned about the direction the provincial health-care system is headed in.
The Penetanguishene residents, who are north Simcoe’s representatives with the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), are calling on the public to push back against what they view as an increasing privatization of health care.
During the past year, the provincial government has moved forward with plans to allow a variety of surgeries and diagnostic services, such as cataracts surgeries, MRI and CT scans, to be conducted at private, for-profit clinics.
While the government says this will help address the backlog created by the pandemic, Copping believes the strategy is destroying the foundation of the public health-care system.
“The public at large does not understand that the staff at those private clinics are being pulled out of public service,” said Copping, who is worried about the potential of more public services being allowed to be conducted by private clinics.
“Staff will be solicited from the community and the people who depend on public health care will end up with longer wait times.”
Burnout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the lure of private clinics and the low wage increases the government offered medical professionals is pushing even more people out of the public system, Copping said.
“The dichotomy between what people need, should be paid and can actually earn is getting so far apart. It’s destroying loyalty,” Copping said.
Copping and Moreau plan to attend an upcoming rally at Queen’s Park on Sept. 25, to oppose the government’s health-care plan. Information about how to catch a bus to the rally can be found at ontariohealthcoalition.ca.
“It will be politically impossible for them to continue to privatize our public hospitals’ services against the will of the vast majority of Ontario’s (residents),” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the OHC. “Let us make that happen sooner than later because every service we lose is extremely hard to get back.”
The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 329, which represents staff at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, is also sending a contingent to the rally.
President Justin LeGros is “extremely concerned” with the direction the public health-care system is headed.
“The government has deliberately defunded the health-care system to create this crisis, and are trying to frame privatization as the only option,” LeGros said. “It’s like steering a plane into a mountain, then blaming the mountain for being in the way when you crash.”
According to LeGros, the hours of reported agency use jumped to 1,183,358 in 2022-23, up from 449,608 in 2020-21. The cost of employing private agency staff increased to $173.7 million from $38.4 million during that time span.
The hourly rate relative to the amount of hours worked climbed to $140 per hour in 2022 from $85 per hour in 2021, and it continues to rise, according to LeGros.
“The use of agency nurses continues to cripple the public system,” LeGros said.
“We don’t need to privatize health care. We need government to invest in public health care, and create conditions in which highly skilled workers actually want to work in.”
A community meeting has been scheduled at the Penetanguishene Legion on Sept. 14 from 1 to 3 p.m.