TORONTO, Nov. 21, 2014 /CNW/ - More than 20 bus loads of people from across Ontario were joined by thousands in Toronto to stop the aggressive and systematic dismantling of our community hospitals by Ontario's government.
Patients, seniors, hospital workers, nurses, health care professionals, doctors and concerned community members joined forces in a giant rally today to send a clear message to Ontario's Wynne government that the cuts to – and privatization of – public community hospitals must stop.
Speakers talked about being charged extra user fees of hundreds or even thousands of dollars at private clinics for cataract surgeries, colonoscopies, endoscopies and other services. The clinics also bill OHIP, speakers noted, and charge extra user fees on top even though the Canada Health Act is supposed to prevent the direct billing of patients and ensure equal access to health care based on need not wealth. The coalition is demanding that the government stop their plans to cut diagnostics and surgeries from local hospitals and contract them out to regional private clinics forcing patients not only to pay the extra fees but also to travel out of their home towns for needed care and privatizing public health care.
The crowd heard impassioned pleas from residents for the government to stop the planned wholesale closure of hospitals in Welland, Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Penetanguishene.
A "parade of cuts" was featured showing dozens and dozens of community hospitals where devastating cuts to beds and services are happening all across the province.
Speakers laid waste to the false claims by the government that care is being moved out "to the community" noting that home care is being cut and is woefully inadequate to take the loads of heavier-care patients being offloaded from hospitals.
Public funding for hospital care services has been running at less than the rate of inflation for 5 years and has been frozen with 0% increases for three years, forcing ever deeper cuts.
"I fear that I will be forced to get my medical tests in private clinics that are unsafe and that charge user fees on top of billing OHIP," said Julie Devaney, a patient with Crohn's Disease and spokeswoman for the Toronto Health Coalition. "This plan is bad for patients and it will cost us more, not less."
"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."
"We are experiencing the most aggressive moves to dismantle local community hospital services in decades," said Ross Sutherland, R.N. , Chairperson of the Ontario Health 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."
"Our communities fundraised, volunteered and worked to build up our local hospitals for more than a century," added Sue Hotte, chair of the Niagara Health Coalition where five local hospitals are slated for wholesale closure. "Now the government is wiping out more than a hundred years of dedicated work by community members to build our towns and take care of each other. We must stop them before it is too late."
Ontario's hospitals are funded at the lowest rate of any province in Canada. Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) Statistics.
Ontario has fewer hospital beds left per person than any province in the country. Source: CIHI.
Ontario provides the least amount of hospital nursing care of any province in the country. In Ontario, the average patient (average weighted case) receives 6 hours less nursing care than the Canadian average according to the most recent figures available from CIHI.
The Ontario government is planning 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 all across the province. More outpatient services are closing every day. Virtually every service cut from hospitals is privatized and patient face new user fees for this care amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. These new systematic cuts will devastate community hospitals that have already suffered more than 20 years of almost non-stop service cuts.
The Ontario Health Coalition is the largest and broadest public interest group on health care in Ontario, representing more than half a million people in our network. The coalition has more than 400 member organizations including: faith groups; student chapters; social justice organizations; non-profit community groups; health care unions; private sector unions; nurses' associations; doctors' organizations; women's groups; seniors' organizations and many more. The coalition is comprised of a network of more than 70 local chapters across Ontario. Our mandate is to uphold single-tier public Medicare under the principles of the Canada Health Act. We encourage democratic public debate about public policy decisions and advocate for the public interest in health care.
SOURCE: Ontario Health Coalition
For further information: Natalie Mehra, 416-441-2502 (office), or 416-230-6402 (cell).