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The campaign to stop privatized hospitals in Ontario is building momentum and putting growing pressure on the governing Liberals, who must face the voters in a provincial election this October.

CUPE is working with the Ontario Health Coalition in on-the-ground campaigns to mobilize opposition and expose the problems with privatized P3 hospitals. The coalition worked with economist Hugh Mackenzie to analyze the deal for a privatized hospital in North Bay. He found the deal “relies on secrecy and dubious accounting to conceal its exorbitant costs.”

Mackenzie’s analysis is based on a heavily blacked-out version of an agreement between the government and private investors. Even with this scant information, he found that “the government admits the financing and transaction costs for the private hospital will be $160 million more than if they had built publicly. That’s $160 million extra in higher interest rates, unnecessary lawyers’ fees, consultants’ fees, and money for middlemen. Despite acknowledging its higher cost, the government rationalizes its insistence on the P3 hospital by assigning a value of $230 million to a dubious ‘risk tranfer,’ without disclosing any details about this risk transfer.”

The community of North Bay is paying the price, as the hospital’s mounting costs put pressure on health care services and workers. The privatized North Bay Regional Health Centre is already more than $500 million over budget. Meanwhile, a joint hospital laundry in the community is closing. The service is being shipped to Sudbury, along with 26 local jobs.

CUPE was an active part of the OHC’s recent pledge campaign in North Bay, Niagara region and Sault Ste. Marie. Residents were urged to sign pledges that they will vote in the coming election to keep Ontario hospitals 100% public – no private finance, no private ownership, no privatized services, and no staffing cuts.

The fightback is getting results. In December, the campaign scored a major win when the government narrowed the scope of privatization and excluded contracting out of most support services.

In another P3 hospital development, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union has released a report detailing some of the problems staff and patients have encountered in the province’s first P3 hospital, the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Facility, in Ontario. The report’s authors have called on the government to place a moratorium on all future P3 contracts until a full fiscal and operational review can be done of the Royal Ottawa and William Osler facilities.