SOS-Save Health Care

 

Earlier this month the Ontario health coalition launched a public campaign to save hospital services throughout Ontario with a specific interest in K-W. The reason? A little-publicized plan of the Ontario government to privatize a number of health services, which will result in unaffordable health care costs for many Ontarians.

We have established a campaign office in Kitchener, complete with staff and a phone bank. Our plan is to hold a community referendum on April 5th at various polling stations to be set up throughout the region. The referendum question? To ask people if they support public healthcare or the privatization of much needed services.

We need volunteers from now until April 5th. There are many jobs we need help with. Phone/ foot canvassing to promote our campaign and get out the vote (there will be a large cross province canvass blitz on March 29th for which we need as many bodies as possible), finding polling stations in our community, and monitoring polling stations on referendum day, April 5th.

Contact the Ontario Health Coalition for further information or to get involved and have your concerns heard. The K-W branch of the Ontario health coalition can be reached at 519-743-4536 or kitchenerwaterlooohc@gmail.com or on Facebook.

Background

The Ontario government has introduced two new regulations under the Independent Health Facilities Act (IHFA) and Local Health System Integration Act (LHSIA) to enable LHINs to cut clinical services from local hospitals and contract them out to private clinics. The government intends to run the contracting process through the spring and begin contracting out these services by mid-summer.

So what does this mean for us? Well in all likelihood a greater strain on our pocket books when, for most of us there quite as thin as they can get.

Though the Minister claims the clinics will be non-profit, more than 97% of IHFs are for profit and we have already heard the intention of for-profit IHFs to establish so-called “non-profit” entities to bid for hospital services.

This so-called “non-profit” system is not what the public may expect going by what they hear from the Ontario government. There is no legislative protection against for-profit privatization in the plan and any requirement for non-profit status (however meaningless it may be) can be changed on a whim with no requirements to go through the legislature for approval.     

In fact the government plans to establish private clinics expressly not under the coverage of the Ontario Hospitals Act, therefore with no protections against privatization.

For-profit corporations to deliver healthcare services are already lining up around the corner to put in their bids for these services. Despite the heavy rhetoric from the Health Minister about protecting non-profit care, services are being cut from many local hospitals, now, all across Ontario and being privatized and moved to for-profit owned corporations. Services like physiotherapy, cataract surgeries, MRIs, and even recently here in Waterloo region at Grand River hospital endoscopy services are on the chopping block and patients can expect to shell out for a large bill and travel an unreasonable distance for services that are currently being delivered locally at no costs to patients. 

This model has also already proven to be more costly, not cheaper. In Britain, the private specialty clinics cost 11% more than local hospitals for the same services. This is according Britain’s own former Health Minister who oversaw the privatizing of services.

It seems more likely than not that the movement of these services will result in significant new costs which will not be recovered. Just like in the last round of hospital restructuring in the 1990s, which according to the provincial auditor general cost the province 3.9 billon dollars more and was never recovered in the promised “savings” the restructuring would result in.  We are in for high bills for necessary treatments and a financial burden to a public system which is already being stretched far too thin.

In some of the worst cases private clinics have a vested interest in “upselling” and over treating patients to make more money. Many recent studies show that private clinics are very likely to conduct unnecessary tests and procedures to maximize bills and increase their profits. This in an industry and in a country where many see it as a point of pride that profits should never come ahead of the health and wellbeing of our communities.

The government’s plan to close hospital services and expand private clinics is not supported by the evidence. In fact there is a significant body of academic research showing poor quality, safety concerns, high user fees, and a host of other hospitals associated with the breaking up and privatizing of community hospital services into private for profit clinics.

 


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