The following Opinion Editorial by OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was published in the Toronto Sun on January 6, 2021.
Thomas: Stop the pillaging and invest in our health-care system
We are at crossroads in this crisis.
Because of a generation of cost-cutting, retail politicians who savaged our health care system, a system that was once the envy of the entire world.
And they did it at the altar of corporate and personal tax cuts. All crafted so the rich didn’t have to pay their fair share.
I can remember a time when politicians would have photo ops in small and large communities across this province, indeed this country, cutting ribbons at new hospitals and health care infrastructure.
Getting a hospital in your riding was a ticket to political longevity.
Then came the 90’s and the so-called deficit fighters. Remember the time when a billion or two in the hole was unsustainable?
And now we are looking at possibly trillions to undo the damage.
Front-line workers have sounded the alarm bells for decades.
But we have been consistently dismissed by politicians enabled by corporate media as a special interest group, selfishly entitled and concerned with only our own wages and benefits.
That has never been true. It never will be.
Well, how has that turned out?
Rae, Harris, Eves, McGuinty, Wynne. All three political parties. All the same playbook.
Hospitals closed or merged. Communities pillaged. Front-line health care workers let go. Wages frozen and cut back.
All of this has led us to where we are today.
Funny, sometimes it’s not what I forget that keeps me up at night. It’s what I remember.
Which brings me to Anthony Dale of the Ontario Hospital Association.
He’s getting lots of media coverage advocating for sustainable hospitals.
Good for him.
I remember him in another iteration serving at the knee of neo cons Harris, and Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer destroying the health care that generations had built because their Common Sense Revolution Manifesto said the costs were unsustainable. Common sense. Ya right.
Well, the chickens have come home to roost. Capacity is an issue and now we have to play catch up fast or we will never get to the other side of this pandemic and the life sucking lockdowns that persist. Of course, the truth is that capacity has been an issue for decades. Remember hallway health care? Last year’s label for a generational issue.
Ontario’s population is aging. So is our infrastructure. So is our workforce.
If we are going to get out of this pandemic, we will need to spend smart.
And that starts by reimagining a robust health care infrastructure with space, modern technology and more, not fewer, front-line heroes to keep all of us healthy and safe.
Ignoring that reality is a cost we can’t afford. It’s a cost we can’t imagine.
So, I’m calling on Premier Ford to take a different path then his most recent predecessors.
Invest now. Invest smart.
And most importantly, listen to the front-line heroes, especially the forgotten heroes. They can get us to the other side.