Ontario Health Coalition sign, May 30, 2023. (Photo by Maureen Revait) Ontario Health Coalition sign, May 30, 2023. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

New OHC report rips province for facilitating public healthcare crisis

The Ontario Health Coalition released a new report today that points the finger of province's ongoing healthcare crisis squarely at the Ford government.

Robbing the public to build the private: The Ford government’s hospital privatization scheme, is a 16-page report that outlines the numerous actions the coalition says the province has taken to undermine the public healthcare system while propping up for-profit clinics.

The OHC points to the 0.5% budget increase for operating hospitals in 2024, an increase that doesn't even outpace inflation, meaning that "public hospitals cannot maintain even existing services let alone improve them."

Meanwhile, there was a tripling of funding for Independent Health Facilities (from $38,693,100 in 2022-23 to $120,693,100 in 2023-24) as the government also expanded for-profit clinics ability to "privatize core public hospital services, including surgeries and diagnostic tests"

The report also critiques the cost to the province expanding surgeries to for-profit clinics, citing a report by the Kingston Health Coalition. The investigation into a local contract to privatize cataract surgeries found "the cost to the health care system was a 56% increase over what it would have cost to perform the same services in the public hospital."

The OHC says this comes as public operating rooms across the province are being closed down or underused.

Then when it comes to the ongoing issue of hospital staffing, the coalition argues that the government has refused to take action on the for-profit staffing agencies that are regularly called in to cover shortages, noting that they've "escalated their prices by more than 70% since Ford took office."

"Their policy choices have resulted in a vicious cycle in which staffing shortages and the reliance on for-profit staffing agencies create a worsening staffing crisis, thereby increasing reliance on private staffing agencies," reads the report. "Since agency staff choose their hours and can choose to work only days or preferred shifts, it becomes harder and harder to staff the overnights and weekends. It is no surprise, then, that increasing numbers of public hospitals are closing vital services evenings, overnights and on weekends."

Data collected by the OHC showed in 2023, there were more than 1,200 vital service closures in local hospitals across Ontario as a result of the nursing shortage.

Representatives from the coalition will be holding press conferences throughout Wednesday to address the report's findings and call on the government to stop dismantling the single-tier system. There will be one for the Southwest Region at the London Public Library at 11 a.m.

An Ontario-wide conference will be held at Queen's Park by Executive Director Natalie Mehra at 12:15 p.m.

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