Brampton Residents Speak Out about Privatization and a New Hospital at Healthcare Town Hall

 

While most Canadians are generally happy with the country's healthcare system, Brampton residents have been dealt a tough (and unfair) hand when it comes medical facilities, and they're rightfully worried about obtaining a much needed new hospital.

They're also, according to provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath, worried about possible privatization of some aspects of the healthcare system under Doug Ford's newly elected PC government.

"The folks that came are very concerned about the Ford government's move to privatize health care services. They're happy we're pushing back, they talked about massive overcrowding at Brampton Civic and the need for another hospital. Folks in Brampton haven't been getting what they deserve," Horwath told inBrampton.com following a healthcare town hall at Greenbriar Recreation Centre.

Horwath said the town hall, which attracted about 150 residents, was held to address ongoing health issues that affect Ontarians in general and Bramptonians in particular.

"We're all here tonight because we're thinking about the future we want for health care in our province and in our communities," Horwath told the crowd.

"Imagine an Ontario where we fully fund high quality public health care - in hospitals, home care, long-term care and throughout the system. An Ontario where nobody has to wait for hours in an ER to be seen by a doctor. An Ontario where patients are always moved into an appropriate room - never left in a hallway."

While long wait times in emergency rooms are common across the province, Brampton's healthcare situation is indeed unique—and residents have often complained that it feels their needs are overlooked.

"Ontario's world-class health care system is hanging by a thread. And Brampton is on the front lines of this crisis," Horwath told attendees.

"For years Bramptonians have been told by Conservative governments, then Liberal governments, and then Conservative governments again to settle for less. To settle for cuts, and budget freezes. To settle for incredibly long wait lists for understaffed long-term care homes. To settle for Brampton Civic Hospital being so terribly over-crowded that 4,352 people were treated in hallways in one year. And now instead of fixing the healthcare system the Liberals left hanging on by a thread, people are concerned Doug Ford is only making things worse."

Horwath said the town hall was held to discuss a number of healthcare-related issues, but two things took centre stage: the Ford government's proposed overhaul of the healthcare system—which she argued could lead to the privatization of some services—and Brampton's need for a new hospital (along with changes to Peel Memorial Urgent Care Centre to transform it into a full-service healthcare space).

"There's no doubt, people know very well that their hospital is not enough," Horwath told inBrampton.com.

"Peel Memorial has be expanded and we need a new hospital built in Brampton."

Horwath said that residents were frustrated when Conservative MPPs Prabmeet Sarkaria and Amarjot Sandhu failed to vote on an NDP motion to allocate money in this year's budget to construct a new hospital in Brampton.

The motion was ultimately defeated by the PC majority government last October.

Horwath said the community's healthcare needs have been underserved for years.

"The day Brampton Civic opened, it was already over capacity and the city's population continues to grow. Hospital funding in Ontario has to consider population growth, it has to be part of the formula."

Horwath points out that while the province has announced investments in hospitals across the province, Brampton—which is where the term "hallway healthcare" was coined—has been continuously overlooked.

"They've made announcements about a new hospital in Grimsby and they announced another one more recently. Bramptonians are right to be outraged because their community has been the poster child for hallway medicine," Horwath said.

"I've toured the hospital three times and said something needs to be done. It adds insult to injury that when the problems they're having in terms of accessing proper care—when 4,000 people are treated in hallways—Brampton is not a community at the top of the list. It absolutely has to be addressed."

As far as privatization concerns go, Horwath said that residents are concerned about what a massive overhaul of the existing healthcare system will mean for them in the long run.

In February 2019, Health Minister Christine Elliott unveiled plans to create the new Ontario Health super agency by dissolving the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINS) and merging them with several other provincial agencies that already exist. The plan is contained in Bill 74, The People's Healthcare Act, 2019.

If the legislation is passed, the consolidation of agencies and provincial services and programs into the Ontario Health agency would be implemented over a number of years. The organizations slated for transition include Cancer Care Ontario, Health Quality Ontario, eHealth Ontario, Trillium Gift of Life Network, Health Shared Services Ontario, HealthForce Ontario Marketing and Recruitment Agency and the LHINs.

While Elliott reassured residents that Ontario will maintain its current public and universal healthcare system, Horwath said her party is still concerned that private companies will be able to bid on specific services.

"Yesterday in question period, we asked about what will be privatized. There's a private healthcare provider in London called Advanced Surgical Operatory that indicated they're interested in bidding for one of the health teams. They want to provide private surgeries, although it's not clear what kind," Horwath said.

"It's wide open. Already we have some private services, but we know they're not working. Our home care system is falling apart. We don't want to see this with surgeries or procedures, it's a recipe for disaster. Imagine if we had scores of private operating rooms all around the province? How do you manage quality and accountability? The cost of oversight goes through the roof."

At the town hall, Horwath said that the province already tried letting the for-profit sector "get their claws in healthcare" when former premier Mike Harris sent home care to the private sector, much of it to for-profit corporations.

"It got so much worse. There's not a soul in Ontario that would say our home care system is in good shape."

Horwath says the uncertainty is concerning Brampton residents.

"…I heard from Brampton residents concerned about long hospital waits. They know risks of private, for-profit hospitals when the last PC government made them the guinea pig for first private P3 hospital. Fewer beds while draining public dollars into private profits," Horwath tweeted the day after the town hall.

"People in Brampton want investments in frontline care, not more private for-profit healthcare or a mega-health agency. They remember the last time a PC government promised them private for-profit healthcare would improve their hospitals. I heard families say they want a healthcare system they can count on. Instead, they see a government laying off nurses and health professionals, and posing for photo-ops at private health clinics.  Will the government close the door to private for-profit care?"

While it's not yet clear what, if any, services will be privatized going forward, Horwath said the PC government's refusal to shut down talk of private companies bidding on services is concerning.

"The minister would not say that private health care teams would not be able to bid. By saying it will all remain publicly funded, it's muddying the waters. Where is the money going? The minister refused to commit to not-for-profit and public. We asked if they could guarantee that a [for profit] company would not be able to bid on a public healthcare service, and they didn't say no. They had a chance to say no, but they didn't say no."

As for why Brampton has yet to receive funding to expand Peel Memorial and build a new full-service hospital, Horwath couldn't say whether or not a rumoured rift between between Ford and newly elected mayor Patrick Brown is to blame, but she did say that she can understand why residents are worried.

"I don't blame people for being worried. One of things I said is that there are two Conservative MPPs that represent parts of Brampton and folks should put pressure on those two MPPs. They have an obligation to represent their constituents and fight for them at caucus meetings."

As for the NDP plans to go, Horwath says they'll keep the issue in the spotlight.

"We're going to continue to push and stay in touch with our friends in Brampton. We have great MPPs who won't leave this issue on the sidelines. We're concerned that government changes are coming fast and furious with Bill 74," she says.

"We're encouraging people to call the Clerk and make a presentation. You have a right to come to legislature and say you don't want healthcare privatized. We invited people to call and come in and talk to government next week. We're going to continue to be active on this. We won't stop talking to Ontarian about what this means. This is the biggest change to medicare since the 1960s. We need to protect our system."

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