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Liberals ignore public input on health care bill: OPSEU

Toronto – Ontario’s Liberal government has ignored input from hundreds of patients, health care workers, and organizations to charge ahead with its latest health care legislation, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) says.

On December 7, the Liberals passed Bill 41, the Patients First Act. Despite four days of public hearings, dozens of submissions, and a host of recommendations, Bill 41 passed with virtually no changes. In response, OPSEU is raising a red flag about the increased threat of health care privatization under Bill 41, and the concentration of power in the unaccountable Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs).

“After more than a year of consultations with representatives from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, we are shocked to see that this entire process has been nothing more than a make-work project,” said Lucy Morton, Chair of OPSEU’s Health Care Divisional Council. “This government has shown no interest in hearing from patients and workers who are the experts on the ground. The consultations were just a formality.”

In a November 14 submission to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly, OPSEU provided 20 recommendations to strengthen Bill 41 in the public interest. The union called for an end to health care privatization, the creation of a fully public, not-for-profit home care system, improved LHIN accountability, and meaningful, ongoing consultation with the public and health care workers over local health care decisions.

Bill 41 gives the LHINs more power, but not more accountability or transparency, the union says.

“Putting more power into the hands of the LHINs is a recipe for disaster,” said Sara Labelle, Chair of OPSEU’s Hospital Professionals Division. “The LHINs have been a force for endless cuts and restructuring that have been devastating to communities across Ontario. They have shown an utter lack of concern for the health of patients. At the end of the day, the LHINs are not accountable to the public; they answer to the ministry and do its bidding.”

“My view of the Patients First Act is that it was primarily a public relations exercise,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU. “By restructuring health care, the Liberals hope to persuade Ontarians that they are thereby improving it. They aren’t. Yet again, the interests and concerns of regular Ontarians have been forgotten.”

For more information: Lucy Morton, 905-317-9464; Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931