Monday afternoon Norah Beatty of the Grey Bruce County Health Coalition made a deputation to the council of the Municipality of Meaford (full text below). Later in its meeting, after a brief discussion, the council unanimously passed the following motion:

"The Council of the Municipality of Meaford, recommends that the  government reconsider its proposal to create private for profit hospitals and clinics and rescind Bill 60, and that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Premier of  Ontario and the Minister of Health, and our MPP Rick Byers, and The Town of Blue  Mountains.

Good afternoon Mayor Kentner, Deputy Mayor Keaveny, Councillors, Staff and public  attendees. recommends that the  government reconsider its proposal to create private for profit hospitals and clinics and  rescind Bill 60. 

I am here today because my grandfather leafletted on the prairies with Tommy Douglas’ campaign for public health insurance. I am also here because my father was  a railroad engineer and in his later career was the Canadian Chairman of the United Transportation Union.  About 25 years ago he said to me, “If you kids don’t stand up and fight like me and  your grandfather’s generation, you are going to lose everything that we fought for and  you have enjoyed.” Well, I am not a kid anymore but as I have watched our current  government bring about destructive changes, in so many areas, his plans to privatize  our public health care and in particular the threat those changes pose to our small,  rural hospitals, compelled me to fight back.  

So I started the Grey Bruce County Health Coalition, affiliated with the Ontario Health Coalition and their province wide campaign to stop the Ford govt. from removing 50%  of surgeries and diagnostics from public hospitals. The govt. is funding community  clinics but that is their euphemism for private hospital. 

The OHC has fought to maintain public healthcare for over 40 years. It is a grassroots,  non partisan organization which has held successful campaigns against privatization  moves by ALL political parties. This time it is the current Conservative plans that are so  abhorrent and go further then any other government. Indeed, provinces such as Que.  and B.C. are currently pulling back on their experiments with privatization. Many  international and Canadian studies, and a recently failed legal challenge by Cambie  Surgeries Corp. to the BC supreme Court, have proven the negative results of  privatization: costs to patients and the government increase, staff shortages in public  hospitals increase, poorer patient outcomes, longer public hospital wait lists and  contraventions of the 1985 Canada Health Act such as over billing, double billing,  upselling. The Canada Health Act states health care is to be provided based on need -  no matter where you live, and no matter how rich or poor you are and no patient can  be charged for medically needed hospital and physician care. This Act is like a  Canadian patients’ bill of rights.  

Very quickly I joined forces with my Co-chair, Brenda Scott. Brenda had already been  organizing and leading the Chesley area in protesting their Hospital’s frequent ER  closures. After a two month closure last Fall, since Dec. their ER is open only 9 to 5 Monday to Friday. There have been many ER closures, across the province, due to staff shortages  and under funding. The most recent permanent closure is Minden Hospital ER. That  small community was given only 6 weeks notice of the closure on June 1 and no  consultation with any local stakeholders took place, including the Town Council. Will  that be our fate?  

Brenda held a Town Hall, in early April, at which our MPP Rick Byers, spoke and  pledged to support his constituents. The community circulated a petition, which to  date, Mr. Byers, despite repeated requests, has not responded to nor presented to the  legislature. Last week he voted in favour of Bill 60. His allegiance is clearly to the  Progressive Conservative caucus.  

Bill 60 removes the requirement that the director of a private clinic has to be a member  of the Ministry of Health. Therefore, anyone such as a business owner or corporation,  can be appointed director and there is no financial accountability because they are not  subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Clinics will not be subject to transparency  as there is no requirement to list new clinics. This opens up huge possible conflicts of  interest and possible corruption as “clinics” are not subject to any public disclosure or  public reporting. Finally, Bill 60 deregulates a large range of health care staff not only in  private clinics but also in other parts of health care. There are no details and existing  Colleges and training facilities have not been consulted about what the specific  licensing and other regulation changes will be. Who will be qualified to dispense  narcotics, do surgeries, be Medical Directors in long-term care homes, assess patients  and residents, bill OHIP, restrain a resident in a long term care home or operate an x ray machine have been deregulated. 

Together, with many volunteers who share our deepening concern, we are conducting  the OHC’s opinion poll, on May, 26 & 27. We have to insist that democracy matters  and want to give regular Ontarians, of every walk of life, in every community, an  opportunity to have a say. Last Sat. I conducted the first poll in Grey County. It was  inspiring to see 49 seniors at Central Place Retirement Community vote with their  hearts and guided by their lived experience. The ballot question is straightforward: Do  you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and  clinics?” Yes or No. There is an option to vote online now.  

The campaign goal is to garner 1 million No votes so that enough political pressure can be  put on the Ford government to force them to change direction. We expected Bill 60,  euphemistically called, “ Your Health Act” to pass. However, that is not the end of our  campaign. We are just beginning. The public’s outrage is growing. After all, the  majority in our provincial legislature was achieved with only 18% of the eligible voting  public. Ford has chosen to see his majority as a mandate to bring in changes which he  never presented to the public. In fact, in the two months leading up to the election,  Ministry representatives followed OHC staff around the province. OHC were warning  Towns about govt. plans to privatize while Min. reps told local press that they were not  going to increase the privatization of hospitals. Ford’s, “You will only pay with your  OHIP card.” sounds like, “I won’t touch the Greenbelt.” There is ample proof that  where private hospitals operate you do pay with your credit card. An article in the  Breach questions, if the only people who benefit from handing over vital services to  private for-profit entities, are for-profit companies it begs the question, “is that why this  policy is being followed?” 

Bill 60 will disproportionately affect small, rural hospitals. Most of the surgeries in  these hospitals are the so called easier surgeries, such as colonoscopies or cataract  surgery. Lower volume in a small hospital raises the question as to whether or not that  hospital is needed or cost effective. Meaford’s lab service has already been cut to half  days. Colonoscopies are scheduled to be done elsewhere. Staff shortages exist but  are an issue manufactured by the government’s refusal to address work conditions and  restrictive wage law Bill 124. 

Meaford hospital is a designated centre for cataract surgery. However, will patients be  directed to the new for profit cataract hospital, scheduled to open, in the Fall, in  Waterloo? Perhaps our hospital will be seen as, “not busy enough” or too costly to  keep open when other large, urban options exist and the government has a contract  with a for profit entity. If our hospital is rumoured to close or indeed closes will people  want to move here and will doctors want to practice here? We already have a serious  shortage. I admit that this is conjecture but it is entirely feasible given the belief system  of this government - which is - business/profit first, care and community second.  

There are better solutions. Right now OR’s in all public hospitals are underfunded and,  therefore, operate at only 1/3 to 1/2 their capacity. A video by Dr. Warner from Toronto,  explains that if the Government funded 50 public hospitals to operate their OR’s for 2 more hours a day, opened permanently closed OR’s and funded some weekend OR’s, the  public system could clear the cataract backlog surgery in 15 weeks. This is much  faster, more sensible and less costly option then spending tax payer $ to build  duplicate OR’s or pay businesses that are using public infrastructure after hours and on  weekends. They have been doing this at the Ottawa Riverside Hospital since Feb.  2023. Privatization is a government choice not a necessity. Directing funds to public  hospitals is the answer to ending the current crisis. 

Rigorous studies have proven that results are poorer in private clinics. They have  significantly higher death rates, particularly dialysis clinics. For-profit colonoscopy  clinics have more missed cancers. Furthermore, if a patient has a complication during a  procedure at a private hospital they are transferred, by ambulance, to a public hospital, at risk to the patient and putting extra burdens on the under funded public system. The  public hospital does not have access to the patient’s file and the private business is not  held accountable. No surgery is “easy” and without risk.  

Over the last decades, various government decisions, in particular this government’s  actions, have created the current crisis and a turning point. If we lose our public  hospital services we will not get them back. A two tier system of health care will  become even more entrenched. The population will be faced with higher costs, poorer  medical outcomes, longer waits and less funding and resources for all hospitals but  small rural hospitals in particular. 

Communities, especially rural areas, have worked for 100 years or more to volunteer,  fund raise, and support their local hospital. It is their hospital not the governments to  sell for profits. Our public medicare system is a reflection of our collective values:  equity, universality, healthcare as a human right, compassion for all and excellence in  care. It should not become a business enterprise that makes money for the few while  sacrificing our values and in the process make people more vulnerable, poorer and less  healthy.

Full motion:

Resolution Whereas, hundreds of communities across the province have spent  decades building and supporting local, public non-profit hospitals and services; and 

Whereas, many communities in northern Ontario are hundreds of kilometres apart; and 

Whereas, residents of these communities rely on their public community hospitals for  surgeries and medical care; and 

Whereas, the Ontario government is planning, through Bill 60, to create private for profit hospitals and clinics throughout the province; and 

Whereas, the province, through Bill 60, plans to take thousands of surgeries and  diagnostics tests out of our local public hospitals and offer those services to the private  for-profit hospitals and clinics; and  

Whereas, Bill 60 will draw doctors and nurses from the small community hospitals,  resulting in the possible closure of those small public community hospitals forcing  residents to travel hundreds of kilometres for treatment; and  

NOW THEREFORE the Council of the Municipality of Meaford, recommends that the  government reconsider its proposal to create private for profit hospitals and clinics and  rescind Bill 60. and 

FURTHER THEREFORE, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Premier of  Ontario and the Minister of Health, and our MPP Rick Byers, and The Town of Blue  Mountains.



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