Ontario Health Coalition supporters at Queen's Park rally, October 10, 2018 (Photo from OHC Facebook).

Health coalition headed to Queen’s Park for rally

A bus full of concerned citizens from the Chatham-Kent area will be heading to Queen’s Park at the end of the month.

On October 23, health coalitions across Ontario will arrive in Toronto for a rally.

Shirley Roebuck of the Wallaceburg-Walpole Island Health Coalition said the rally has been organized so elected officials know they want Ontario’s healthcare system to remain public.

“We want our healthcare system to serve the community,” said Roebuck. “Our concerns are broader than the Wallaceburg hospital. We’re concerned for Chatham too.”

Roebuck said many of their concerns relate to the people Premier Doug Ford has surrounded himself with to make healthcare decisions. This includes former British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell. In B.C., doctors can charge for elective services, a policy ushered in under Campbell’s leadership.

The Ontario Health Coalition has also pointed to Rueben Devlin as a source of concern. Devlin was appointed by the PC government as the chair of a new council on improving health care and ending hallway medicine.

The OHC said during the Mike Harris government, Devlin led the way on health care cuts.

Roebuck said Devlin supports the “P3” (public-private partnerships) model.

“We don’t want to see the private sector come in and build hospitals,” said Roebuck. “Public hospitals should be built with public funds and by the government, not privateers.”

Roebuck said she also believes the PC government has plans for mega-mergers and hospital hubs, where funding will be centralized and very little will “trickle down” to smaller hospitals like those in Chatham and Wallaceburg.

“We should be adding services, not fearing closure yet again,” said Roebuck. “We want vibrant local services, public and accessible for all.”

Hospital bed statistics provided by the OHC show that Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per-capita out of all provinces, with an average of 2.24 beds for every 1000 people. Newfoundland ranks the highest, with more than 4 beds for every 1,000 people. A 2015 Canadian Institute for Health study also shows that Ontario spends about $500 less per person on public health than other provinces.

“How can Ontario function if more cuts are made?” asked Roebuck.

The bus to Queen’s Park on October 23 will leave in the early morning from Chatham and Sarnia. Roebuck said they hope to add buses from Wallaceburg and Dresden too. The rally is set to begin at noon that day in Toronto.