The Ontario Provincial Government is furthering its attack on community hospitals by cutting and privatizing their services. Physiotherapy, lab tests, pain and fertility clinics are all but disappearing in our hospital’s public services. This means our communities’ most vulnerable members are subject to less accessible, more expensive and poorer quality care.
In response to healthcare privatization, Dr. Chris Simpson, President of the Canadian Medical Association states that, "It's always a tempting, quick solution to say, 'We've got wait times for things, why not let the private sector in?' I think it's simply incorrect to say, 'If we built more capacity in the private sector, that's going to fix the problem.' Because in many cases, it's not capacity, it's where the capacity is. If you look at (European countries), most of whom have had dual private and public health systems, they had problems with wait times; they didn't fix their wait time problems by enhancing the private sector, they did it by restructuring the public sector."
Indeed, overcrowding, wait times and safety concerns are huge concerns for our community hospitals, resulting in an issue of “warehousing” chronic pain patients, rather than focusing on rehabilitation. We see Northern communities having to travel hours to receive basic care treatments. These problems are rooted in understaffing, unaffordable/overcrowded long-term care facilities, and a lack of funding and restructuring.
What is the government doing about this? For the fifth consecutive year, Ontario had increased its funding to community hospitals at a rate that is less than the rate of inflation, and for the last three years this rate has been frozen at a 0 per cent increase. This translates into cuts: 18,500 hospital beds have been removed, and hospital staff are witnessing management offices go in their place. Kathleen Wynne’s so-called “progressive budget” continues this austerity. We may see cuts as high as 50 per cent in acute care beds, maternity and local services, with many people having no where else to turn to.
How does this affect our community hospitals? Welland, a town of 51,000 residents, is faced with the closure of their local hospital. Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, warns that the Ontario government is taking on “the most aggressive attack on public health care services that I’ve seen.”
Yet there is hope. Just a few years ago, there were threats to close down several small town local hospitals, but the people fought back. More than 4,000 people protested at Queen’s Park and stopped the plans for closures. We can do it again.
Make your voice heard and show your solidarity for public health services! Join the STOP Private Clinics, SAVE Our Local Public Hospitals Rally on Friday November 21 at Queen’s Park at noon.