TORONTO, ON – Despite overwhelming evidence that the privatization of clinical and support services in health care has milked taxpayers and exposed patients to infection, poorer outcomes and death, the Ontario government has fast-tracked Bill 138 to facilitate further privatization, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) charged today.

Today appearing before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs of the Ontario Legislature regarding Bill 138 (Plan to Build Ontario Together Act) which will (among other things) introduce and amend a number of acts relevant to the health sector, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) will draw attention to Schedules 19 and 37, which will open the door to increased privatization.

“Instead of restricting the expansion of service privatization, for-profit health care and private clinics, these amendments do the opposite; they facilitate them by easing the process for licensing and extending the concept of the supply chain from goods to include services, without restriction. This is not about saving a few pennies on bandages and, it most certainly is not – despite the government’s downplaying of the Bill – benign housekeeping,” says Michael Hurley, president of (OCHU).

The Bill proposes changing the current formal and stringent ‘request for proposals (RFP) process to an arguably less transparent and less onerous one of licencing and a call for applications.

The provincial government’s experience with health service privatization has been costly. At the Brampton hospital alone, privatization meant the support services cost up to $100 million more than if those services had been publicly delivered.

“We believe that many health care services, like pharmacy, laboratories, diagnostics, cleaning, food services, information technologies, medical records and others will be up for privatization as a result. The scope of the power permitted under this Bill is extremely broad,” says Hurley.

Hospitals are the focus of the government’s health care cuts. It is evident from this Bill the PC’s intend to remove a range of services from local hospitals and transfer them to specialized private clinics. Expanding private clinics would remove the most lucrative, high volume and easiest procedures from community hospitals. The remaining community hospitals would be left with the most difficult services. If these hospitals chose to compete with the private clinics, they would have to specialize in a narrow range of services.

Schedule 19 of Bill 138 eases the process for applying for a private clinic, “despite overwhelming evidence that their record is very bad. Expanding the role of for-profit and private clinics is the opposite of one-stop, integrated public health care,” says Charlene Van Dyk, chair of the Health Care Workers Coordinating Committee (HCWCC) of CUPE Ontario. “How the government can pursue increased privatization of health care services in the face of the evidence is deeply disturbing.”

The government is cutting funding in real terms for hospitals and long-term care by 15 per cent over the next five years, while the Ontario population ages and grows and demand increases on these services significantly.

“The government will have to factor into its thinking that the health care workforce, taxed by years of cutbacks, understaffing and plagued by poor morale will not accept privatization. There will be a major battle over shifting precious health care resources away from patients to corporations,” says Hurley.

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For more information contact: Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications ([email protected]) 416-559-9300

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