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TORONTO – After weeks of floating trial balloons on health service de-listing, Ontario’s health minister today unveiled system changes that will hurt the elderly and sick; those who need health services the most, says Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) president Michael Hurley.

Moving more procedures out of hospital - something the health minister claims will offer “better quality care at a lower cost”, not paying for some procedures and curbing the number of patient tests physicians order, are among the changes the Ontario government is considering.

Cost-cutting based on a contrived austerity crisis is driving the government’s health policy, not health outcomes or scientific evidence. The Liberals are working very hard to get us used to the idea that health services will be cut. But the financial crisis is one of the Liberals own making.”

Tax cuts for corporations and the rich has resulted in a drop in revenue for the province of approximately $18 billion per year,” says Hurley, citing figures from a recent study by economist Hugh Mackenzie. “It is this revenue crisis, not a crisis in spending, which has created Ontario’s deficit. If McGuinty hadn’t continued the Harris government’s handouts to the richest Ontarians, we’d be talking about what to do with our surplus this year, not a deficit.”

Studies have consistently shown that the key costs driving up health care spending are drugs and physicians’ billings, and that when the private sector provides health services it actually costs more as a result of administrative redundancy and profit-seeking.

Unfortunately the minister of health hasn’t shown the will to tackle the drug companies or the doctors or the private sector interests. Instead,” says Hurley, “she proposes to cut important health services for the public while continuing to pour resources into the parts of the healthcare system dominated by private sector interests, which are the most expensive and least efficient in terms of health outcomes.”

The health minister made her major health care policy announcement at an elite event sponsored by a major pharmaceutical company and attended by many private business interests. “The Liberals haven’t lost their sense of irony. The big drug companies are mainlining Ontario’s scarce healthcare dollars, yet the minister chooses to stand with pharma giant Pfizer to make a cost-cutting announcement about the most efficient parts of the health system,” says Hurley.

These health care cuts are coming at a time when the federal government continues to provide a six per cent health transfer to Ontario and Ontarians are paying a provincial health premium tax imposed by the Liberals ostensibly to maintain health services.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley      
President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)  

Stella Yeadon       
CUPE Communications