The Fight to Save Ontario Hospitals February 12, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Health.
Tags: canada health, canada hospitals, Conservative Party Canada, health, health care, healthcare, liberal party, medical services canada, ontario, ontario government, ontario health, ontario health coalition, private sector health, privatization, roger hollander, single payer, SUSAN ROSENTHAL
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by Susan Rosenthal – Canada
“People First,” International Health Workers for People Over Profit (IHWPOP)
As the fight for a single-payer medical system heats up in the United States, Canada’s single-payer system is being dismantled to support corporate profits.
On January 30-31, two-hundred representatives meet in Toronto for a “Strategy Summit on Ontario’s Planned Hospital Cuts, Downsizing and Restructuring” convened by the Ontario Health Coalition. The OHC includes more than 400 labor and community groups that are committed to defending and improving the publicly-funded, publicly-administered health-care system.
The Strategy Summit was called in response to planned funding cuts that will affect every hospital in the province. If the cuts go through, Emergency Departments will close, local birthing services will be eliminated, hospital departments and beds will be lost, paramedical and support services will be privatized and fees for hospital patients and visitors will increase.
The goal of the meeting was to organize a province-wide campaign to stop the loss of these services, and the first order of business was to counter the lies that justify the cuts.
The Cuts are Not a Response to the Recession
Back in 1994, the Ontario government presented its plan to transform the medical system into a cash-cow for the private sector.
“To have the effective launching pad it needs, the health industries sector must expand its share of its own home market. Steps must be taken to ensure that, as in other countries, the domestic market supports the development of globally competitive companies.”(1)
One of these steps was to scrap regulations that ensured a minimum level of daily care for nursing home patients. Major cuts to funding and services followed.
The cuts were so unpopular that the Conservative Party was voted out of office in favor of the Liberal Party. In turn, the Liberal Party has betrayed its election mandate and planned this round of even deeper cuts.
In 2006, before the recession began, the Liberals passed the Local Health System Integration Act to dismantle the public hospital system under the guise of “integration.” The province was divided into 14 geographic areas, each of which was assigned a Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) with the power to reorganize and cut regional medical services.
Economists warn that hospital cuts will deepen the effects of the recession, because every lost hospital job will cause a second job loss in the community. Moreover, increasing wait-times for medical services will cost billions more dollars in lost work time and productivity.
The Cuts are Not about Improving Hospital Efficiency
Hospitals are not being cut to make them more efficient, but to support the profitability of the private sector.
Ontario hospitals are the most “efficient” in the country. Between 1981 and 2008, the hospital share of the Ontario health budget fell from 52 percent to 37 percent.
The Ontario government has cut funding for health and social services in order to support corporate profits. Low corporate tax rates mean that only 15 percent of Ontario’s GDP goes to government funding, compared with 17 percent for the rest of Canada. As a result, Ontario has the lowest per-capita government expenditure: $6,905 in 2007 compared with $8,692 for the rest of Canada.
Hospital cuts also help to move medical services (and money) from the public sector to the private sector. This is accomplished in a two-step process.
First, hospitals are funded below the level required to match the rate of inflation and population growth. Years of under-funding have pushed half of Ontario hospitals into deficit and 70 percent are expected to be in deficit by next year. Second, hospitals are forced to cut services to balance their budgets.
By Canadian law, medical services provided in hospital must be publicly funded and provided free of charge. Once these services leave hospital, they can be taken over by the private sector and provided for profit……….continue reading The Fight to Save Ontario Hospitals
Susan Rosenthal works as a physician in the Toronto area.