Ontario PC government legislation that will expand private and for-profit surgeries and procedures isn’t smart spending but a costly policy that will increase costs, waits and death rates, lower patient outcomes and bleed scarce staff from public hospitals, says Michael Hurley president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.
“Throwing huge amounts of money at private firms and commercializing hospital surgeries and diagnostic procedures will not benefit patients, lessen wait times or retain and attract health care staff. We urge this government to do the opposite of what they are doing; invest in rebuilding our public hospitals, shoring up staffing with better wages and manageable workloads to improve care quality and cut patient waits,” says Hurley.
Private clinics and hospitals drain staff away from public hospitals. 37,000 positions out of 260,000 in Ontario hospitals are unfilled and the annual attrition rate of 15% a year adds tens of thousands of additional vacancies.
“We don’t believe Ontarians support the creation of a private, duplicate hospital system. This government is deliberately understaffing our hospitals. The largely female workforce has been humiliated by a wage cap bill at a time of high inflation, leading to a spike in attrition, horrendous staffing levels, and impossible workloads for those who remain. This is the context for the government’s move to privatize hospital care. The Ford government has set the public system on a course to fail, through years of budget cuts and wage restraint. The solution here is to bring staffing levels up the average of the rest of Canada, using the new federal transfer funding,” says Hurley.
Evidence from the United Kingdom shows that deaths from treatable causes have been rising since legislation there encouraged the privatization and outsourcing of their public National Health Service. The Oxford University study published in the Lancet found that increased privatization “corresponded with significantly increased rates of treatable mortality, potentially as a result of a decline in the quality of healthcare services.”
CUPE in Ontario represents more than 90,000 health care workers in public hospitals, long-term care homes, paramedic services, and home and community care. More than 50,000 CUPE members work in hospitals across Ontario.