Speakers Notes – For the October 19th Rallies
We want to get out a clear message about for-profit health care and the threat of for-profit hospitals. This message consists of three main points:
The fight against privatization is now.
Public health care is a human right and a public service based on values of compassion, humanity and solidarity. For-profit health care is about greed. It makes health a commodity to be bought and sold for profit. It is more expensive, less accessible and unjust.
We can win! But we need your support.
The fight against privatization is now.
Ernie Eves would like to make it look like his government has turned over a new leaf. But in recent months, his government has stepped up the attacks on public healthcare.
The Harris government began by requiring that all home health care be contracted out. It cut $100 million in services from OHIP coverage. It awarded long term care beds to for-profit corporations – many of whom donated handsomely to the Progressive Conservative party. Then it helped turn cancer care services in Toronto over to a for-profit corporation. The provincial auditor found that this was more expensive and that a public alternative was not seriously considered.
The Eves government continues with these projects and has begun to implement even more serious attacks – attacks that go to the one area that they have not yet dared to privatize – hospitals and hospital clinical services. If they can privatize these services, then nothing is safe.
The government intends to privatize Ontario hospitals. Two “public private partnerships” (PPPs) have been announced for hospitals in Brampton and Ottawa (the William Osler Health Centre and the Royal Ottawa Hospital). For-profit corporations would build, design, finance, own and operate these facilities. The government claimed that “clinical services” would remain under the control of the hospital board: but this means that most CUPE jobs will be up for privatization. The Royal Ottawa has just announced the shortlist of corporations bidding for that project. They now say they intend to sign a deal in March. We expect the Osler hospital is not far behind in the process.
These projects are very similar to projects in Britain. The British PPP hospital projects are much more expensive than public hospitals: the for-profit corporations have to pay more to borrow money and they suck money out of health care for profits. In Britain, they have made up for these additional costs by cutting the number of beds and staff in PPP hospitals. On average, there is a 30% cut in the number of beds and a 25% cut in the number of staff – doctors, nurses, laboratory technologists, as well as housekeepers, dietary workers, and maintenance workers. Canadian research has shown that you are more likely to die in a for-profit hospital. The bottom line is these projects are more expensive and provide less care.
And now the government even wants to privatize hospital clinical services. Just a few months after the announcement of the for-profit hospitals, the Eves government announced 25 for-profit MRI and CT clinics. These are vital clinical services provided by hospitals. Indeed, until now, MRIs could only be provided in hospitals by law. Now the government wants to move them out of hospitals, and turn them over to for-profit corporations. As you would expect with for-profit corporations, if you have the extra money to pay for the scan, you will be able to buy your way to the front of the line. This will also drain scarce radiologists and technologists from the public hospital system.
Health Minister Tony Clement has said that this is just the beginning. He told the media that for-profit day surgery might be next. Day surgery accounts for a very large portion of the surgery that goes on in hospitals – well over half at the Osler. This government is threatening the very core of our public hospitals.
The Eves government has increased user fees 7.5% for seniors in long term care facilities this year. It intends to increase fees even more over the next two years. Yet a recent study sponsored by the provincial government revealed that Ontario provided the least amount of nursing care of any of the jurisdictions studied in Canada, the US, and Europe. Seniors have borne enough and with most on fixed income they cannot afford the increased user fees.
American style for-profit health care is on our doorstep. The campaign against for-profit health care is now.
Public Health Care vs. For-profit Greed
Around the globe, for profit healthcare has had serious consequences for patients and staff. To pay for the outrageous executive salaries, advertising, lobbying, duplication, higher administrative costs, profit-taking and fraud that characterize the for-profit health industry, costs go up and patient care for the majority of people is sacrificed.
But we don’t only oppose for-profit healthcare because it costs more and is inefficient. We are also opposed because we believe, as do most Canadians, that health care is a human right. It is a public service not a commodity to be bought and sold for profit. We are proud of our public health system and of its values: compassion, humanity and solidarity. And we want those values to be strengthened, not destroyed.
We Can Win!
Around the globe the evidence against for-profit healthcare is mounting. Community after community in the United States are fighting to keep their non-profit hospitals from being privatized. In Britain, private hospitals have threatened MPs’ seats. In New Zealand, the government is re-publicizing its hospital system. In Prince Edward Island, a private hospital was recently stopped by a massive public outcry. In Nova Scotia privatized “lease-back” schools were abandoned due to a series of scandals and public opposition. Ontarians will be joining massive citizen’s movements across the country and around the globe to keep and strengthen public control of critical public services. These struggles are being won every day. We can do it here too!
We Have a Unique Opportunity to Stop For-Profit Hospitals and Set Back for-Profit Health Care
The government hopes to sign deals for the MRI and CT scans in the next few months. It hopes the hospital deals will be signed in the spring of 2003. But the reality is – with thousands protesting and an election on its way, the government will be in major trouble if it proceeds. The government has made plain that they don’t want to be perceived as an old style, Mike Harris government of confrontation and conflict in the pre-election period. Now, more than at any time in recent memory we have the ability to put real pressure on this government.
The time to organize and step up the pressure is now! Join the rallies on October 19th in Ottawa or Brampton. Attend the Barlow tour. Help us organize your members and your neighbors to attend these important events!