THUNDER BAY - The Ontario Health Coalition is raising the alarm about legislation proposed by the Ford government that it says will open the door to more privatization of home care and long-term care in the province.
The Ontario Health Coalition held rallies in 12 cities across Ontario, including Thunder Bay at Mini Queen’s Park on Wednesday, to protest Bill 175.
“We’re protesting the fact of what’s been done and how it’s been done and that the bill is unbelievably poorly written,” said Jules Tupker, co-chair of the Thunder Bay Health Coalition.
“It’s basically going to open the door to privatization of home care, more than what’s privatized now. It’s going to allow basically private home care to go to the public hospitals.”
Bill 175, which is expected to be voted on this week in the legislature, would allow private companies to offer home care. Currently, home care is assessed and provided through publically funded health integration networks.
Tupker said the government has been pushing this legislation through with no public consultation and the timing is inappropriate.
“The government decided in its strange wisdom to try and pass this bill while we are still suffering the effects of COVID-19,” he said. “They are just sliding this through. They initiated the process in early March while in the midst of COVID-19 and they are just trying to get this thing passed.”
Long-term care homes in Ontario were hit particularly hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They know that the majority of deaths in long-term care occurred in privatized homes,” Tupker said. “Now they are opening the door to even more privatization of home care. And we see that as even more of a problem.”
Bill Joblin, business agent with Service Employees Union, said Bill 175 represents another erosion of the health care system in Ontario.
“I’m sure we are all aware of what has happened in long-term care and private organizations,” he said. “A lot of people have died. Profits have been put ahead of health care. For us that is something that should be stopped immediately.”
“The bottom line is it makes home care a worse situation than it already is and it already is in a bit of a mess right now. By moving to privatization and less regulation and letting private organizations make these decisions for us is not in the best interest of health care.”
Joblin added that the government appears to be using the COVID-19 situation as a screen to push this legislation through and not giving the public an opportunity to speak to it.
Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Judith Monteith-Farrell was at the rally outside Mini Queen’s Park on Wednesday and she agrees that it is inappropriate to try and pass this legislation during the pandemic.
“It’s totally inappropriate to pass Bill 175 because this was legislation developed before COVID, before we had the crisis in long-term care,” she said. “The same issues that are being examined in long-term care now, are issues that are in home care.”
Monteith-Farrell said she applauds the efforts of people across the province who are trying to raise awareness about Bill 175 and what impacts it could have on the health care system.
“Privatization is an issue because you take the profit and give it to shareholders rather than have that money, that is public money, go into care of individuals,” she said.
“There is nothing in Bill 175 that does anything to improve home care. Home care has been a concern for many years. It hasn’t changed and this legislation does nothing to improve home care,” Tupker added.
“We are hoping the government will have another look at this and have more discussions and have some public input into the whole process because at this point there has been no public input.”
The Ontario legislature is expected to vote on Bill 175 this week.