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Opinion: Ontario can’t afford health-care privatization

Sudbury MPP Jamie West says Premier Doug Ford’s government is using the staffing shortages to push privatization rather than investing in public health care
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Sudbury MPP Jamie West. (File)

Sudbury is in the throes of a health care crisis driven by staffing shortages — and Doug Ford is threatening to make it worse with privatization, rather than investing in our public system.

Sudbury isn’t the only community where people are waiting far too long in emergency rooms, or spending months in pain in line for surgery or treatment. This is happening in every region in Ontario.

Sudbury also faces unique challenges. For example, HSN was built too small to serve the needs of our community, making northern Ontario already vulnerable to the worsening crisis of hallway medicine.

For years, there has been a chronic shortage of doctors, nurses, PSWs and other health practitioners in northern Ontario. At the same time, Sudbury is seeing an increase in opioid-related deaths and overdoses, as well as in the number of children and teens struggling with their mental health.

Services like mental health care have been underfunded for so long that hospitals and hospital staff have had to take on more work. But as their workload has increased, the number of staff available has decreased. After two years of pandemic burnout, frontline workers are leaving, often because they feel disrespected by Doug Ford’s wage-capping legislation for public sector workers, Bill 124.

As healthcare workers have consistently said about Bill 124: "Don't call us heroes and treat us like zeroes!"

Instead of dealing with the health care staffing crisis, Ford is proposing for-profit health care.

With Mr. Ford’s scheme, private corporations will be able to bill Sudbury families for extra tests, consultations, meals, pain medication, and more. You and your loved ones will pay for services that you should not have to pay for, or may not need. 

Instead of reducing wait times, Doug Ford’s scheme will only benefit his wealthy and well-connected friends - while everyday people continue to wait longer for care. 

As a direct result of the Conservatives’ refusal to address the continued shortages of doctors, nurses and other health practitioners in our communities, Ontario will simply end up with two understaffed health care systems.

You deserve better. The good news is that there is a better way. 

We need more health care professionals in the North and in Sudbury.

We can and should recruit and retain doctors, nurses, PSWs and health care practitioners by ensuring that they get better wages and better working conditions.

We need to show frontline workers the respect they have earned and deserve, and we can do that today by repealing Bill 124.

We need to invest in our health care system, particularly hospitals and particularly in northern communities like Sudbury.

Most of all, we need to keep health care public. Sudbury families should always be able to count on world-class care being there for them when they need it, without being told to pay or wait.

That’s how we fix the health care staffing crisis in Sudbury and beyond, not with Doug Ford’s costly privatization scheme.

New Democrat Jamie West is the MPP for the riding of Sudbury.