HAMILTON, ON –/COMMUNITYWIRE/– A large group of hospital staff including nurses, personal support workers and lab technologists rallied today at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton against the Ford government’s plan to contract out hospital services to private, for-profit clinics.
In response to Bill 60, the recently passed legislation that farms out surgeries and diagnostic procedures to private clinics, hospital staff at St. Joseph’s Healthcare represented by the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO) have been mobilizing to save public health care.
On Monday, after a series of passionate speeches by frontline workers and their provincial leaders, a group of hospital staff marched to the office of Elizabeth Buller, the CEO of St. Joseph’s Health System, to present a petition calling on her to resist the government’s plan and take a stand against privatization. More than 2,400 workers, representing a majority of the unionized staff at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, signed the petition.
Hospital workers say that funnelling public tax dollars into investor-led clinics will drain resources away from public hospitals including Hamilton’s, further weakening a sector plagued by chronic underfunding and understaffing.
Last week, Queen’s Park Today reported that several corporations are lobbying the Ford government for surgical contracts. The lobbyists include Doug Ford’s former policy director and two former hospital CEOs.
The healthcare workers are reiterating their demand for investments in higher staffing levels, and a meaningful recruitment and retention strategy, to improve patient care and help clear the surgical backlog that Ford is using as an excuse for privatization.
This is the second in a series of such rallies being organized by a coalition of five unions including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Healthcare) and Unifor.
Since the provincial government’s push to privatize hospital services and bring in investor-led clinics was made public, members of ONA, CUPE, OPSEU/SEFPO, SEIU Healthcare and Unifor have all launched campaigns at community hospitals.
“ONA and our union allies demand that St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s CEO reject Doug Ford’s plan to let corporations’ profit from Ontarians’ health-care needs,” said Erin Ariss, registered nurse and ONA provincial president. “The hospital must invest in and implement a meaningful staff retention and recruitment plan. That is what we need to improve care and shorten wait times.”
“Bill 60 will effectively create a two-tier system as funding private clinics will drain money away from the public system. For-profit clinics will only serve the most profitable patients – that is, the easiest-to-care-for patients. Meanwhile, the staff at under-resourced public hospitals will have to provide care for the most complex patients. It will be a disaster,” said Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).
“Ford has manufactured a crisis by purposefully underfunding our healthcare system by billions of dollars. With Bill 60, he is making the health care crisis – and wait times – worse, draining our public health system of funding and staff. Privatization removes transparency and accountability from health care delivery and makes health care services even more costly and less accessible for Ontarians. Health care workers are coming together to fight back and say loudly: ‘Our patients’ lives are not for profit!’” said JP Hornick, president of OPSEU/SEFPO.
“Under Doug Ford’s plan wait times will get longer because investor-led clinics will draw frontline staff away from public hospitals. A better plan is to care for those who care for us. Attract nurses back to the frontline and lower wait-times for families. We can start to do this by paying registered practical nurses $35 per hour because nobody with the burden of doing life-saving care should also be burdened by the economic stress of figuring out how to pay their bills,” said Jackie Walker, president of SEIU Healthcare’s Nursing Division.
“Each dollar claimed as profit by private clinics is a dollar taken away from the quality and accessibility of our healthcare, putting the health and well-being of our citizens at risk. This dire consequence of privatization undermines the very foundation of our collective health, hindering our quest for fairness and prosperous communities,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor’s Ontario regional director.