Toronto, April 17, 2019 - It has been done before and it resulted in enormous costs,
not savings, and it compromised services. This was the message of the Ontario Health
Coalition in reaction to the growing array of health care services that the Doug
Ford government plans to restructure and cut. The coalition released their tally
of Doug Ford's health care cuts to date:
- Cut OHIP+ so families with sick children will have to seek private coverage first
and pay deductibles and co-payments.
- Cut planned mental health funding by more than $330 million.
- Cancelled all new planned overdose prevention sites.
- Cut funding for the dementia strategy.
- Let surge funding run out for hospital overcrowding. Surge beds are now closed without
replacement, despite overcrowding crisis.
- Cut and restructured autism funding.
- 2019 Budget set overall health funding at less than the rate of inflation and population
growth, let alone aging. This means service levels cannot keep up with population
- 2019 Budget set public hospital funding at less than the rate of inflation. This
means real dollar (inflation adjusted dollar) cuts and serious service cuts.
- 2019 Budget – cut provincial funding for public health by almost 1/3 (27%) and cut
public health units from 35 to 10.
- Introduced Bill 74 which gives sweeping new powers to the minster and Super Agency
to force restructuring of the entire health system.
- Municipalities revealed Ford government plan to cut and restructure ambulance services,
down from 59 to 10.
"The current EMS system in Ontario was created by Mike Harris' restructuring," noted
Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. "The evidence
from that round of restructuring is that costs grew dramatically post-restructuring."
The coalition is concerned that already there are problems of slower response times
in rural areas due to long travel distances, and inadequate numbers of ambulances
available in urban centres due to crisis-level hospital overcrowding and paramedic
costs in long offload delays. The restructuring plan does not address any of the
causes of too long EMS response time, it does not ameliorate services even where
there is evidence of significant need.
"Cutting and centralizing the ambulance services down to ten giant regions means
that smaller rural and northern communities will be lesser priorities and risk their
service levels," she warned.
Public Health cuts/restructuring
"Severe cuts amounting to almost one-third of provincial funding for public health
threatens vital local services including food and water safety, infectious disease
tracking and prevention, immunizations, prenatal training and safety, overdose prevention,
safe needle and biohazard programs and many others. The Ford government has not
explained how these services are supposed to be provided for at one-third of the
cost," said Ms. Mehra.
The Ford government is now clearly embarking on the most aggressive and radical
health care restructuring that Ontario has ever seen, warns the Ontario Health Coalition.
The Mike Harris government hospital restructuring cost $3.9 billion, according to
the Provincial Auditor General, to cut $800 million from public hospitals. It led
to for-profit privatization and new user fees for an array of services. The costs
were never recovered and many of the current problems that we face in health care
can be traced back to the last two rounds of restructuring.
"Again restructuring itself has proven to be enormously costly, taking billions
of public dollars away from services to lay off health care staff, move buildings,
rename services, create new boards, renovate buildings and so on," concluded Ms.
Mehra. "Mr. Ford has taken what Mike Harris did and is now doing it again on a more
radical, more massive scale. But the public is livid about the consequences of the
last two rounds of restructuring. Ford seems to be oblivious to the fact that the
last restructuring siphoned billions of dollars away from patient care and led to
a gutting of services particularly in medium and smaller communities across Ontario
but also impacting cities negatively."
"Mr. Ford has no mandate for any of this. Not one of the cuts and none of the plans
for massive restructuring, mega-mergers and service closures and transfers was ever
mentioned in the election. The public has never been consulted," said Ms. Mehra.
"Instead the government is now covering by holding invitation-only "engagement"
sessions with government-funded managers who cannot speak freely, and in any case
are not real consultations by any normal criteria. The truth is that the plan to
cut, restructure and privatize health care has been hatched in secret with a set
of advisors and insiders, a number of whom have private interests and many of whom
have been wrong before and bear significant responsibility for many of the problems
we now face. We are planning mass protests and escalating actions in response and
we demand that Mr. Ford stop his high handed undemocratic destruction of services
and removal of local control over health care services that our communities have
spent more than 100 years building.
The coalition has called a mass rally at Queens Park outside the Main Legislative
Building on Tuesday, April 30 at noon.