A massive rally is underway on the lawn of Queen’s Park, and at hospitals across Ontario, to protest cuts and urge the provincial government to keep Ontario’s health care system public.
The Ontario Health Coalition says the Ford government’s cuts to public health and the merging of health services is the start of a slippery slope towards privatization.
Reporter Cynthia Mulligan was there and spoke to people in the crowd. See the video below.
“For the first time, more than 150,000 health professionals, nurses, support workers, doctors and tens of thousands of patient advocates are joining together in a health action day, unified in their deep concern that the ford government intends unprecedented health care privatization,” the organization said in a statement.
“In hospitals and other health facilities tens of thousands will wear a sticker that says ‘Stop Health Privatization’ and will distribute leaflets warning about the Ford government’s health care restructuring plans.”
Premier Doug Ford has said that some management-level positions will be eliminated as part of the planned merger of 20 provincial health agencies, but that no front-line workers will be out of a job.
“Ontario nurses are extremely concerned that the government’s restructuring plans will mean less access for our patients and their families to quality clinical services in public hospitals, more user fees and fewer RNs and health professionals to provide their care,” Vicki McKenna, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, said in a statement.
During the provincial election, Ford campaigned on a promise to end hallway health care and in October his government announced that it was moving forward with a five-year plan that would introduce thousands of new long-term care beds across the province.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the thousands of protesters that flooded Queen’s Park Tuesday are misinformed. She maintains that the province is increasing its investments in public health care.
“I would say that they have incorrect information. In fact we are spending $1.3 billion more on health care in this year’s budget and we are spending it to strengthen our public health care system,” she told CityNews.
In Toronto, Board of Health Chair, Coun. Joe Cressy and the city’s medical officer of health are sounding the alarm about the government’s proposed $1-billion cut to public health.
“I say this, without one ounce of exaggeration, because of these cuts, Torontonians will die,” Cressy said last week.
Elliott said essential Toronto programs would remain intact, and blamed the city for not better prioritizing spending.
“We want to work collaboratively with the City of Toronto and I think it’s unfortunate that the amount of rhetoric has been amped-up to the degree it has because I am confident that the essential program that Toronto Public Health is meant to deliver will be delivered,” she said.
“There are some things that the City of Toronto does that personally I wouldn’t consider to be priorities,” she added. “They have a whole advocacy department within Public Health, why that’s necessary I don’t know … They’ve also spent some money on some reports. They’ve done some studies on re-imagining Yonge Street … is that a priority when you compare that to a breakfast program for a child or a vaccination program? I don’t think so, nor do I think the people of Toronto feel that way.”