Columns

You are here

Ford cuts healthcare funding, prepares ground for privatization

By: 
John Bell

October 22, 2018

“No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” –Aneurin Bevan

Most will be unfamiliar with Welsh firebrand Bevan, one of the outstanding MPs in British Labour Party history. Think the Jeremy Corbyn of his day. Crucially, Bevan was Health Minister in Clement Atlee’s postwar Labour government, who oversaw the creation of the National Health Service. He had spent a lifetime fighting Tories who didn’t just turn a callous, blind eye to the deadly health issues facing Welsh coal miners; many of those Tories were mine owners profiting from shortened life spans and brutal exploitation.

Bevan considered universal health care a human right: “The collective principle asserts that ... no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”

Creating a crisis

Since the early 1960s most Canadians have come to agree with Bevan, and identify healthcare as an essential part of our national identity. But “free market” Tories disagree; they see only an opportunity to make profit snatched from their grasp. Doug Ford’s Tories, like the Conservatives Bevan battled, believe that no one is entitled to anything unless they can afford to buy it.

The very popularity of our healthcare poses a problem for Liberals and Tories. Given their way they would abolish public health services outright, but that would be political suicide. Instead they chip away and weaken our system. They’ve delisted services that were once covered; they’ve cut funds and laid off nursing staff; and they’ve weakened regulations prohibiting private clinics.

As of 2017 there were 34 private clinics operating in Ontario, and 136 across the country. Some, like private cataract surgery clinics, operate under provincial rules but offer “premium” services for extra fees – two-tiered healthcare. Others, like “boutique” doctors’ clinics, violate the Canada Health Act outright. According to Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) research, 88 clinics across the country charge user fees.

In Ontario the Tories under Harris, and then the Liberals under McGuinty and Wynne, created a “crisis” in healthcare where patients face overcrowded facilities, longer waits for non-emergency treatment, and staff shortages. Now the Tories under Doug Ford promise to solve “hallway healthcare.”

Tory medicine

Expecting Ford to solve the very problem he and those like him created is ridiculous. Everything his Ontario government has done promises to make things worse.

One of Fords first acts was to appoint Dr. Rueben Devlin as his special advisor on healthcare. Devlin is indeed special: former president of the Ontario Conservative Party during the Mike Harris years; advocate of privatized medicine; and former CEO of a “public private partnership” hospital that spent a fortune replacing staff with digital resources. Ford is paying Devlin $350,000 (plus expenses) for advice.

Next Ford appointed former BC Liberal premier Gordon Campbell to oversee an examination of the Wynne government’s. Natalie Mehra of the OHC sums up Campbell’s record on healthcare: “I was trying to think of who could actually be worse than him to be appointed into that position… He has a terrible record on health care and privatizing and cutting public services.” After 10 years in office Campbell was forced to resign amid scandals and unpopularity, leaving Christy Clark to carry the Liberal banner for another six years.

After the Liberal years, BC led the nation in doctors extra billing for services. When the new NDP government started issuing fines for violations of the Canada Health Act, BC doctors brought a lawsuit to the Provincial Supreme Court seeking an injunction to stop the clamp down. An affidavit in support of the doctors’ right to charge extra fees was delivered by none other than Gordon Campbell.

Then came Ford’s announcement of $90 million of “new money”; this is a one-time infusion aimed at dealing with the upturn in patient visits during flu season. The amount is actually less than that spent by the Wynne Liberals at the same time last year, and will do nothing to address the systemic problems behind “hallway healthcare.”

It must be noted that Ford’s announcement came not at an open press conference, but at a closed-door photo op. Critics like OHC’s Natalie Mehra and representatives from the Ontario Nurses’ Association were excluded, forced to stand in an outside hallway instead.

Finally, all of Ford’s coming cuts will make life harder for people in Ontario: harder to pay bills, harder to find an apartment, harder to stay home rather than have to spread illness at work.

Full disclosure: part of this was written during a recent stint in hospital. There were indeed patients on gurneys in the halls of the ER where I was admitted. When asked, nurses laughed openly about the prospect of Doug Ford solving the problem. One told me they expect the trend of nurse layoffs to continue: “We’re already serving more patients per nurse than is safe. It should be 4 to each nurse. I’m looking after 6, and that’s on a good day.”

Smaller health facilities will be amalgamated for “efficiency” and beds will be closed and staff made redundant as a result. This is already happening: hospitals in Lindsay and Peterborough are going through this now.

And the crisis in healthcare will be made worse, giving the Tories the excuse to do what they wanted to do all along – introduce private services in a two-tiered system that will allow the rich to buy better care while workers suffer with crowding and long waits.

Our health system is under a long-planned and carefully executed attack. To defend it will require serious grass-roots organizing. It comes down to whether or not you believe that every human being deserves decent healthcare; whether medicine is first and foremost about need or about making profit. When we talk about those in Doug Ford’s Tory government we know where their priorities lie, for now as in Bevan’s day they are “lower than vermin.”

Join the rally for public healthcare October 23, noon at Queen’s Park

Section: 
Topics: 
Geo Tags: 

Featured Event

Events

Recent Videos

The Socialist Vocalist raps against precarity and in support of solidarity
The documentary shows the greed of corporate America and the hope for a better future
The latest from the female-fronted hard rock band takes on Trump's America
Visit our YouTube Channel for more videos: Our Youtube Channel
Visit our UStream Channel for live videos: Our Ustream Channel