A province-wide organization that advocates for publicly funded health care is holding marches across Ontario today to protest the Ford government’s handling of the hospital crisis.
The Toronto demonstration, organized by the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), is set to get underway at noon outside the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at 583 University Ave.
Protesters will also gather outside Kitchener’s Grand River Hospital and near the Windsor Regional Hospital Metropolitan Campus today.
For more than two decades, OHC has tracked hospital cuts, closures, service closures and overcrowding.
In a Dec. 9 news release it said that it “has never seen the crisis in our public hospitals reach the extreme state in which we find ourselves currently.”
The organization is also sounding the alarm about what it claims has been a high volume of sick and disabled children being turned away from pediatric emergency departments, as many hospitals struggle to deal with an influx in patients with respiratory viruses.
They also say that patients’ surgeries and diagnostic tests are being cancelled and delayed, and that a high number of nurses, health professionals, and other staff leaving the sector.
“In the face of this crisis, we would expect an Ontario government of any political stripe to do everything possible to address such a humanitarian catastrophe. However, the Ford government has not even repealed Bill 124,” OHC said, pointing to the legislation that limited wages for public sector workers.
“For more than a year, (the province) has responded to media and public queries about the unfolding hospital crisis with the claims that it is hiring 6,000 staff, fast tracking international graduates and the status quo is not working. These are PR lines crafted to simply end the discussion and make it look like the government is doing something, but they are meaningless.”
The coalition said Ontario needs more than 50,000 long-term care staff and more than 40,000 hospital staff as well as more funding for its hospitals instead of privatizing health care services.
“A recruitment drive in the magnitude of tens of thousands is what is actually needed to stabilize the system,” OHC said.
“Ontario has floors, even entire hospitals, where beds have been closed down due to underfunding and now understaffing. There are all kinds of capacity that could be opened up, were there only the political will to do so. In large hospitals across Ontario, there are operating rooms that are closed for weeks or months or even permanently due to underfunding and more recently understaffing.”
Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said people’s lives are at stake.
“This is not the time for games, denial or lies. Enough. We demand action to address this crisis and we demand the Ford government stop using the crisis as cover to privatize our public hospitals,” she said in a release.