Lambton to be a battleground in privatization fight says health coalition

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The Sarnia-Lambton Health Coalition says the provincial health care system is being privatized and they want to make it an election issue.

The coalition held a news conference Monday highlighting Health Minister Christine Elliott’s statement several weeks ago which said it would use “independent health facilities” to clear up the backlog of surgeries which built up during COVID-19. Kathy Fortier of Unifor says that is another clear move towards the privatization of health care.

“This is a very, very serious breach of the whole spirit of the Canada Health Act … For profit hospitals have been banned for many, many years in Ontario, and in Canada. And this is just really, finding a solution to a problem that they’ve created,” she says noting the current system is underfunded.

Trish McAuliffe of the National Seniors’ Federation says her members already are paying out of pocket for health services as private centres doing procedures such as cataract surgery “upsell” lenses, costing seniors upwards of $2,000.

June Weiss, a pharmacist who now co-chairs the Sarnia-Lambton Coalition says Lambton residents already are being lured into private care by a company called Ontario Outpatient. People can book procedures like surgeries, MRI’s online, drive over the Bluewater Bridge and complete the treatment. 

“Ontarians deserve free access to medical care whether it be day surgery, ultrasound, MRIs, CT scans. This is what the Canada Health Act is all about,” says Weiss.

“Service should not be based on how much money you can pay out of pocket, and are you willing to pay out of pocket, are able to pay? Because we know not everyone can, and that’s not fair.”

And Shirley Roebuck of the Sarnia-Lambton Coalition says the long term care field is rife with examples of privatization. 

“Mr. Ford’s government is midstream in giving away over 18,000 Long Term Care beds with 30-year licenses to for-profit companies, which already are responsible for the deaths of thousands of residents during the COVID epidemic and who had stood in the way of inspections, regulations to protect residents, accountability and justice for those who have died in squalid conditions,” she says. “He is planning $17.8 billion in cuts to public services post election.”

Weiss agrees noting Revera was recently given a 30 year contract to rebuild Trillium Villa in Sarnia with more beds. When the announcement was made, the home was in a massive COVID-19 outbreak.

“At that point in time, a third of 100 residents and 36 staff tested positive for COVID-19. It’s been shown that these large for-profit homes have had a much higher death rate than the public nonprofit,” she says.

“We need more not-for-profit homes not private for-profit. Corporations should not be profiting at the expense of our loved ones that need care.”

Roebuck says the health coalition will launch a massive education campaign before the June election to make sure health care funding becomes the top election issue.