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Ontario Health Coalition criticizes Ford government at local meeting

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The Ontario Health Coalition held town hall meetings across the province on Wednesday, including in Waterloo Region, to discuss a new report that criticizes what they say is the Doug Ford government’s drive to privatize public hospital services.The meetings discussed the report Robbing from the public to build the private: The Ford government’s hospital privatization scheme. The report details underused operating rooms in public hospitals and claims the government is funding more private-for-profit clinics to build new operating rooms.

The coalition doesn’t agree with plans for a new hospital coming in the region, as they claim the current ones are underfunded and understaffed.

“You cannot grow a new nurse over night so we have a limited number of human resources in healthcare that we have to utilize properly and sucking them from the public system into the private for-profit clinics doesn't make sense,” said Jim Stewart, the chair of Waterloo Region Health Coalition.

The coalition said they want a centralized wait list and a fully funded public system.

Waterloo Region Health Coalition holds a meeting in Waterloo on Feb. 21, 2024. (CTV News/Chris Thomson)

“The hospitals are limited by their funding as to how many hours of operating room time they can provide. For example, the operating rooms go from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. but for the rest of the time they sit idle so capacity is there but funding and human resources are the problem,” said Michael Lawrie, former chief of staff at Cambridge Memorial Hospital.

The director of the Ontario Health Coalition said it is time for a rigorous investigation.

“Into who is benefitting from these policy choices and what their connections are to this government, because the costs and threats to our local public hospitals and the future of our single-tier public health system are very real and urgent,” said Ontario Health Coalition director, Natalie Mehra, in a news release.

Minister of Health reacts

In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for the Minister of Health commented on the Ontario Health Coalition's meetings.

“While the Ontario Health Coalition continues to be ideologically opposed to any action our government is taking to build a more connected health care system, we will continue our work that is providing you with better access to care, closer to home,” the statement read in part.

The spokesperson said their government has made record investments in the publicly funded healthcare system.

“Since 2018, we have increased the healthcare budget by over $18 billion, investing $80 billion into the system this year alone.”

The minister’s statement also mentioned what they called a record-breaking year in 2023.

“Adding 17,000 new nurses and 2,400 new physicians to our healthcare workforce, achieving the shortest wait times for surgeries in Canada, eliminating a 180,000 person PAP test backlog while returning the surgical backlog to pre-pandemic levels and making historic investments in pediatric and primary care.”

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