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TORONTO – Ever since the Ontario Liberals introduced Bill 8, the so-called Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act in November 2003, protest against its powers to undermine public health care has been mounting in facilities, activist groups and communities across the province.

Over 27,000 of Ontario’s hospital workers, represented by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), have held meetings to discuss and adopt a strategy to fight the bill and its negative consequences for public health care, patient care and jobs in the sector. In addition to flyers, petitions and letters written to MPs, the health minister and premier, OCHU representatives will be making presentations concerning the bill at the Standing Committee on Justice and Social Policy of the Ontario legislature in five different cities over the next two weeks.

Bill 8 essentially paves a legal path for the government to restructure Ontario’s hospitals through privatization and contracting out of services,” says Michael Hurley, President of OCHU.

Through so-called “accountability agreements”, the third section of the bill gives the health minister broad, binding and unprecedented powers over health care facility administration, including the ability to issue directives that override the collective agreements of health care workers.

Such power can be used to force hospitals to reduce or consolidate services, contract-out health care services to private companies, and set aside current employment agreements and commitments. That’s not what Premier McGuinty was elected to do,” argues Hurley.

The Liberals campaigned against hospital privatization. Now they are trying to pass legislation that the Tories could only dream of. We have no choice but to fight this.”

Hurley met with Ontario Health and Long-term Care Minister George Smitherman on January 13th to express the alarm of his members with this proposed legislation and the government’s refusal block the privatization, initiated by the Harris-Eves government, of the William Osler Health Centre in Brampton and the Royal Ottawa Hospital. Instead, Minister Smitherman confirmed that his government intends to proceed with the building and/or operation of six more Ontario hospitals through public-private partnerships, known as P3’s.

Our health care system is stretched to the limit. The SARS crisis highlighted that. The last thing we need is to put corporate pressure to make a profit on health care administrators and workers. That can only end in reduced patient care and services, burnt-out health care workers and inferior facilities.”

Experiments with P3 hospitals in the UK resulted in 7 per cent fewer doctors, 14 percent fewer nurses, 38% fewer beds and the use of lower quality building materials during construction reducing the effectiveness and life of facilities.

Supporters are urged to write their MPPs, participate in actions against Bill 8, and call Premier McGuinty’s office at (416) 325-1941 and tell him to stop Bill 8 and save our public hospitals.

You can e-mail the Premier at webprem@gov.on.ca or mail him a letter at: Dalton McGuinty, Premier, Legislative Building, Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON M7A 1A1.

Raise public awareness by distributing the enclosed information flyer on Bill 8 in your communities.

Presentations by OCHU representatives will be made at the public hearings on Bill 8, held by the Standing Committee on Justice and Social Policy of the Ontario Legislature, in Sudbury, Ottawa and Windsor on February 17, 18 and 19; in Toronto the week of February 23; and in Niagra Falls on February 26, 2004.

More information on these hearings can be found at http://www.ontla.on.ca/committees/justice.htm. A copy of OCHU presentations to the Committee can be found below.

The Ontario Council for Hospital Unions (OCHU) represents over 27,000 hospital workers in over 80 hospitals.

For more information, please contact:
Michael Hurley, President, OCHU: (416) 884-0770
Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications: (647) 224-0662