3, 000 Protest Hospital Closures, Privatization, and Extra Fees

From People’s Voice

More than 3,000 people turned out Oct. 21 for a Queen’s Park rally and march past some of the biggest hospitals in Toronto, to protest the Wynne government’s drive to close hospitals across the province, privatize the clinics that operate inside them, and allow widespread and illegal extra‑billing for services covered by OHIP.

About 20 buses brought protestors from Windsor, Sudbury, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, and other communities in the middle of a cold work day, to express their anger at the Legislature. Torontonians also came to make their views known, loud and clear.

“This is not hospital cuts as usual,” stated Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “It is the systematic dismantling of public community hospitals all across this province. We are seeing the death of community hospitals and we must take a stand to stop these cuts and privatization now if we are to save our local public hospitals and preserve care in our home towns.”

Protestors in Toronto. Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist).

Protestors in Toronto. Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist).

“We are experiencing the most aggressive moves to dismantle local community hospital services in decades,” said Ross Sutherland, R.N., Chairperson of the Coalition. “As care is moved out of our hospitals it is being privatized and patients face higher costs, user fees and worse access to care.”

Unsafe conditions in the private clinics springing up across the province have recently been exposed. Thirteen percent (one in seven) of private clinics failed mandatory inspections and did not meet minimum healthcare standards. Another 22 clinics (not part of the 13%) received “conditional passes”.

The clinics offer cosmetic surgery, colonoscopies, and pain injections, among other procedures.

“The percentage of clinics that did not pass inspection without conditions should be setting off alarm bells,” said medical negligence lawyer Paul Harte, in a Toronto Star interview.

One pain clinic infected three women with hepatitis C, leaving one permanently crippled and the others with long‑term consequences after spinal cord injections gone wrong. Dirty needles and an anesthetist with undetected colonies of disease on his skin were responsible.

Private clinics have been booming since the province began closing public hospitals where many public health clinics for out-patients were traditionally housed. Closing public hospitals and re‑building some as P3s, minus the clinics, has opened the floodgates for the new private clinics. This was clearly intentional by a Liberal government working hard to privatize public assets and services.

Liberals have been in government in Ontario since 2003, continuing to carry out the Harris Tories’ plans for P3 hospitals and private clinics, though they were elected to reverse the health privatization plans which were just taking hold 11 years ago.

Now, Ontario’s hospitals are funded at the lowest rate of any province. Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per person in the country, and provides the least amount of hospital nursing care. The average patient (average weighted case) in Ontario receives six hours less nursing care than the Canadian average, according to the most recent figures available from CIHI.

The government plans to close outpatient clinics, cut chronic care beds by as much as 50% in regions of the province, and cut public hospital surgeries and diagnostics to contract them out to private clinics. Already outpatient physiotherapy and labs have been systematically closed and privatized, and more outpatient services are closing every day. Patients face new user fees for privatized care, amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Community hospitals will be devastated, after already suffering more than 20 years of almost non‑stop service cuts.

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne. Council of Canadians.

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne. Council of Canadians.

The Communist Party, in a flyer handed out at Queen’s Park, called for a halt to the closure of public hospitals, restoration of P3s into fully public hospitals, and replacement of private clinics with public clinics, located in hospitals and communities, and operated at the highest standards.

Hospitals and healthcare must be adequately funded in Ontario, so that beds and staffing are adequate to meet the needs of urban and rural areas. Further, the wages of healthcare workers must not pay for rising costs of healthcare, as suggested by the government’s budget which will freeze public sector wages across the board.

The CPC (Ontario) says the Liberals are colluding with Ottawa to roll back Medicare and open the doors to US big box healthcare providers and insurers. “But the Communist Party and the public demand an end to healthcare privatization and the expansion of Medicare to include pharmacare, dental care, vision care, long‑term care, and mental health care now.”

The Ontario Health Coalition has more than 400 member organizations, including the CPC (Ontario), and 70 local chapters. Representing more than half a million people, it is one of the most active and effective coalitions in the province, with a mandate to uphold single‑tier public Medicare under the principles of the Canada Health Act. Visit the OHC website at http://www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca or call 416‑441‑2502.

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