Hundreds of healthcare workers representing a coalition of five different unions including OPSEU, CUPE, and the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) were outside St. Joseph’s Hospital on Monday morning calling on hospital executives to back their fight against privatized healthcare.
The rally was the second of five planned demonstrations across the province in response to the Ford government’s recently passed legislation, Bill 60 and to get a commitment from the hospital’s management to defend public health care and fight all attempts to privatize.
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“The need for the rally is to bring public awareness. The public is not aware what is happening to health care. We the workers, we see it first hand and it’s so important to educate our public so they know what is happening on the front lines,” ONA Local 75 Bargaining Union President Angela Spiler said.
Bill 60, known as Your Health Act was passed last month and allows private, for-profit clinics to provide more OHIP-covered procedures such as MRI and CT scans, cataract surgeries, and knee and hip replacements.
Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 206 President, Betty Palmieri has worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital for nearly four decades and says the plan would devastate the services in public hospitals and threaten public health care.
“Our rally is about keeping public healthcare public. We don’t want our taxpayers’ dollars going to help private clinics to help set up and take away from the public system,” Palmieri said.
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While the bill has already passed, organizers say the intention of the rally was to send a message to the Ford government to demand an end to further privatization.
In an emailed response to CHCH regarding the demonstration Ontario Minister of Health spokesperson Hannah Jensen says “Bill 60 strengthens the oversight of community surgical settings while protecting the stability of doctors, nurses and other health-care workers in our healthcare system…” She adds that the bill “puts into law that Ontarians will always access insured services at community surgical and diagnostic centres with their OHIP card and never their credit card consistent with the Canada Health Act.”
The Ministry of Health says these new community surgical centres will be required to submit detailed staffing models when applying for a license and how it consulted with health system partners as part of its application.
Secretary-Treasurer of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions with CUPE, Sharon Richer says that won’t help with what she calls the current staffing crisis.
Richer said, “All over the province we’re seeing emergencies close with not enough staff. We know that wait times are longer because there’s not enough staff to look after these patients. So I understand what he’s saying but it’s hard to believe that’s actually happening.”
READ MORE: Ontario has $4 billion more for health-care than needed: FAO
Late Monday afternoon St. Joseph’s Healthcare sent CHCH News a statement saying, “St. Joe’s appreciates the rights of hospital union members to express their concerns about provincial issues and met with union leaders following today’s provincial rally to receive the signatures of their members.”