Views: Health Care — A Major Matter of Concern for Ontarians —


The Progressive Conservative leader and now Premier-Elect of Ontario Doug Ford issued his plan for health care during the election in a May 18 item posted on the PC website:

“‘My message to nurses, doctors and other frontline professionals is clear — resources are on the way and help is on the way,’ said Ford. ‘We’re going to work with our frontline health care workers, cut wait times, end hallway health care and ensure that seniors, patients and families have the high quality health care they deserve.’

“Under Doug Ford’s Plan for the People, an Ontario PC Government will invest in 15,000 new long-term care beds in five years and 30,000 new beds over the next 10 years, invest $1.9 billion over 10 years in mental health, addictions and housing supports, and provide dental care to low-income seniors.

“Ford contrasted his commitment to frontline health care to the out-of-control spending, scandals and waste that have defined Kathleen Wynne’s mismanagement of the health care system. Over the last 15 years the total number of Assistant Deputy Ministers at the Ministry of Health has grown from six to 21.”

A media campaign supports Ford’s idea that by cutting out what is called wasteful bureaucracy, funding can be spent on health care and not managers and administrators. This outlook is based on the myth of scarcity of funds to detract attention from the pay-the-rich schemes in which subsequent governments have engaged. Ford cannot be expected to do otherwise.

Beginning with his time as a Toronto city councillor, Ford is a known advocate of privatization. During the election he said that as premier he would achieve $6 billion worth of “efficiencies” without cutting jobs. He has already announced a freeze in the public service. Contrast this with the campaign of former PC leader Tim Hudak in the 2014 election when he said he would find “efficiencies” worth $2 billion, which he explicitly said would come by cutting 100,000 public sector jobs. However, whether the jobs are cut through attrition as Ford says, or as a result of closures and privatization the promised “efficiencies” are non existent — it just means that more money is directed to construction companies, insurance companies, medical and hospital supply companies and other private interests.[1]

The Ontario Health Coalition in its 2018 election platform sums up the experience of increasing privatization of health care in the past 20 years.

“The evidence, from two decades of these experiments with privatization is that care has become fragmented and is often moved further away; costs for patients and governments has escalated; and quality protections for patients are far fewer. Integration of inpatient clinical services with outpatient care is helpful for clinicians seeking diagnostics, consultations with health professionals and on-site referrals, and for patients trying to navigate and often complex health system. Indeed, access to care has become a serious problem as privatization has expanded. For decades, municipal public transit systems and non-profit supportive agencies have located to facilitate ease of access to local hospital clinics. There are often no public transportation options for patients who now have to find their way to centralized private services. The evidence shows that privatization has neither served the public interest in accessible quality care, nor is it less expensive. It is time to restore and rebuild integrated outpatient services that operate in the public interest.

“As public hospitals have cut and shed services, a new industry of private for-profit clinics has emerged. In three separate studies over 10-years the Ontario Health Coalition has called all of the private clinics we could find in Ontario, including boutique physician clinics, MRI/CT clinics, colonoscopy and endoscopy clinics and cataract surgery clinics. We found that the majority of the clinics are billing OHIP and charging patients extra user fees on top, amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Sometimes fees are charged for medically-needed care and sometimes for add-ons and services that are upsold to patients by clinic operators. We also surveyed 250 patients who had been charged for services and found that many reported manipulative pressure tactics used to compel them to pay extra user fees for things such as extra eye measurement tests without patients being informed that such extras are medically unnecessary. Patients, many of them elderly and on fixed incomes, reported that they suffered financial hardship as a result of the user fees; going without groceries, forgoing other bills and borrowing money to pay medical costs.

“Medically needed hospital and physician care are covered under public health care and paid through our taxes to protect against financial hardship when patients are in need. These practices by private clinic operators are unlawful in many cases, and in all cases violate the spirit and intent of our medicare laws. The government must roll services back into public hospitals that have better quality regimes and operate in the public interest. Extra-billing and user fees by private clinic operators must be stopped and patients must be protected against manipulative tactics used to enhance profits at human expense.”

The right to health care must be recognized to stop the selling of services in schemes to pay the rich. Only the working class of Ontario can put an end to the destruction of the health care system. The current situation underscores the need for the working people to speak out in a manner which empowers them so that they make decisions which favour them and they put an end to relying on representatives of private interests. They cannot afford to be spectators to back and forth name-calling in the Legislature. They must work out how to hold the Ford government to account which, amongst other things, requires keeping informed and speaking out in defence of the rights of all. This government must not get away with behind-the-scenes swindles and corruption as took place under the Liberals.

Ontario Political Forum

Note

1. In 2013, Ontario Political Forum wrote: “The Hudak Conservatives of course are hoping to benefit from the widespread opposition to the Liberals’ hospital closures, bed cuts and service cuts. Hudak blames Liberal mismanagement for the cuts and says health care costs can be reduced without service cuts by finding ‘efficiencies.’ But people are well aware that the cause of the cuts is the austerity and deficit reduction fraud that both the Liberals and Conservatives are pushing. People are also aware that Hudak was part of the government of the Harris Conservatives that launched a massive bed cutting and hospital closing program in the mid 1990s. Since then, Conservative and Liberal governments have closed between them 18,900 hospital beds.”