Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a presentation to the provincial Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, made on Jan. 23.
About 25-30 years ago, Ontario had a vibrant, progressive, and inclusive public health-care system. Many of you and your families benefited from this strong medical system. Then came the austerity budgets from all the provincial political parties, which have now left Ontario ranked last among Canadian provinces for public hospital funding, with spending now at 2.37 per cent of Ontario’s GDP.
The current average of other provinces is 3.45 per cent(CIHI 2019) of their GDP. Funding per capita in Ontario is last among the provinces at $1,568.96, while the average of the other provinces is $1,962.69. (CIHI 2019).
All health-care sectors are experiencing chaos: catastrophic bed and staffing shortages, long wait times, staff dealing with mental breakdowns, increased patient and family violence, and insufficient staff wages This has led to resignations, or to the necessity of juggling multiple jobs to help with daily living expenses. In short, Ontario’s public health system has too few beds, too few qualified workers, sporadic shortages of medications and equipment, and sadly, no realistic plans to remedy any of these now chronic problems.
Since taking office, Premier Ford has been leaning towards privatization of our health services; actually, he is almost halfway there. He has awarded 30-year contracts for new LTC beds to private, for-profit LTC businesses. Some of these LTC businesses were recognized by the Canadian military as having the poorest responses to the COVID pandemic throughout the province.
Premier Ford has announced funding for private, for-profit, surgical clinics, and diagnostic centres, while not properly funding public hospitals. It is true that our public health system needs help, but it doesn’t need “help” from the private, for-profit sector. The priority in private, for-profit health care businesses is profit, not patient care. Their outcomes are often worse than the public system, and of course favours those who can pay extra fees so they have quicker access to treatment.
The already under-sourced staff will be divided into two streams, leaving the public system with worse staff shortages, and lengthening wait times.
Instead of funding more private, for-profit businesses, the government should be re-opening existing surgical suites and medical-surgical beds, as well as cancelling their appeal of Bill 124.
The Ontario government is appealing the court’s decision that struck down this controversial bill that limited wages for public sector workers since 2019. Elimination of this bill would make it more lucrative for hospital staff to return to work in the health- care system, and with other front-line workers, help the government develop a realistic human resource plan. The $1 billion that was not spent on health care, last year, would provide the money to sustain and improve Ontario’s health-care system.
I believe all of you want good care for your parents and children. Do the right thing, and advise Premier Ford to abandon his plans to privatize our public health system. You all will be heroes. Tell him to fund our health-care system as other provinces do, to keep our health system public, and to start to develop a realistic plan for staffing in all health sectors.
Chatham-Kent Health Coalition