MPP Wayne Gates has spoken out in the legislature against draft legislation the NDP says shows provincial plans to privatize health care.
The draft was leaked to the press by the NDP earlier this month, and defended by Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, who called the NDP position “fearmongering.” She said the people of Ontario will not have to pay for access to health care out of their own pockets.
She announced the changes in the new legislation Tuesday, saying the Local Integratd Health Networks will be disbanded and become part of other agencies. Other services will be grouped together under Ontario Health Teams, with some flexibily for areas to choose how its done.
But the concept of a super agency still exists, and is enough to convince Gates and the NDP it will open the door to allow more privatization of services.
“I’ve spent my entire adult life speaking out against the privatization of health care and I’m not about to stop now,” he said in the legislature last week.
“From diagnostic scans to dental care to private parking lots that gouge residents in times of emergency, enough is enough. It’s time to talk about expanding our health care system, not selling it off.”
Gates, who represents the Niagara Falls riding, which includes Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, referred to a move more than a decade ago to privatize hospital maintenance and cleaning, which he said led to an outbreak of C. difficile, from which patients died.
The number of infections since then has decreased with changes both to cleaning and other policies, including hand-washing.
Hospital parking revenue, which previously supported health care, has also been privatized, and now a much smaller percentage of parking fees is returned to health care, he said.
Earlier this month Gates posted a video, recorded with the falls in the background, on Facebook. In it he talks about the leaked document showing plans of “potentially privatizing” parts of our health care system. The video, he said, reached more than half a million people.
“Thousands took the time to comment, share and engage with the video, and one thing was very clear . . . we say no to health care privatization. We believe in a medical care system that is publicly funded and publicly delivered based on health needs, not on the size of one’s credit card.”
When Gates had his opportunity to speak for about a minute and a half in the legislature last Thursday, he asked for the new Niagara Falls hospital to be moved forward, by “putting shovels in the ground. We can do that. We can put local people to work, local businesses, and provide decent public health care in a reasonable time for our residents.”
When the documents were leaked, NDP leader Andrea Horwath held a press conference to speak of the privatization plans. In Elliott’s comments later, she said there would be no jumping lines for health care access, but she didn’t denounce the details in the draft legislation. Elliott said an announcement concerning health care would come later.
“Something as important as health care shouldn’t be done behind closed doors,” said Gates. “There was no consultation. This is being done in secrecy.”
He warns “a lot of people could make a lot of money from this, and a lot of people wouldn’t have access to health care.”
Those dollars, he said, should be used to improve health care, not to line the pockets of people providing privatized services.
Canadians are passionate about their public health care system, created by Tommy Douglas of the NDP in 1961, said Gates. He believes by reaching out to his constituents in Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie, and to people across Ontario, he will convince them to speak out against the privatization of health care services before the introduction of the legislation he expects could come before the March 11 break.
If the legislation opening the door to further privatization goes through, he said, it could leave the aging population of NOTL and across Niagara hurting.
“With our high number of seniors, it would be a double whammy if we have to start paying for health care.”
But it’s not just the seniors who will be affected, he added, “it’s our kids and our grandkids.”
Senior Donald Combe is one of those who commented on the video Gates posted.
“Our health care system is the envy of all Americans, even if they do not know it. We are a kinder, gentler people and obviously, health care is a given right and not the privilege of the rich. Why do we emulate the Americans? They are no longer the envy of the world, nor ought they to be. (Premier Doug) Ford is foolishly emulating Trump,” Combe posted.
Within today’s world, costs are rising and many, especially the elderly, struggle to make ends meet, One of the givens in Canada was that no one was denied access to health care. The basic Canadian belief is that we help one another, not deny support, when people are most vulnerable and ill.”
When Gates was was young, the MPP said, his brother had a number of health problems, and without publicly-funded health care, it took his parents years to pay off the bills, as it does for people in the U.S. In that country, he pointed out, the number one cause of bankruptcy is the cost of privately-delivered health services.
“There is nothing more important to Canadians than our publicly-funded health care system.”