The death of an era

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By Joe Grogan/retired OPSEU Member-Region 5

Decades of cuts to the Ontario public health care system

In my own lifetime but especially beginning in the mid-1990s, Ontario Provincial Conservative and Liberal Governments have had the responsibility for restructuring the health care system. They have tried to turn the Universal Public Health Care System more and more over to the private sector, claiming the business community can do things more efficiently.  This attempt of doing more with less has meant that facilities like nursing homes have adapted the private sector model.  The result has been that employees, particularly nursing staff, caregivers, clerks, custodial workers and visiting doctors are paid low salaries.

Many nursing homes and hospitals have taken on the values and goals of the private sector, operating facilities with a business approach instead of treating health care as part of the social safety net that we have all earned through our labour and the taxes we pay. Although they are responsible as an organization in the public sector, they run their places like a business. The residents become objects to be treated as quickly as possible. Depersonalization is often the result for both resident and staff. And some opportunists see nursing homes as a growth industry for the private sector.  The result is that profit prevails over care and service and weak government oversight and inspections.

Politicians and their responsibility

Premier Ford in many ways has done a commendable job lately in fighting for more equipment, masks and gowns to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.  It must be pointed out that these and other health care problems predate his administration.  His approach on being elected in 2018 was to continue the attack on the public sector and in general on workers, reversing needed changes to the minimum wage, to poverty reduction programs, reductions to the number of inspectors under the Employment Standards Act and proclaiming Ontario as “Open for Business”.  This reflected his pro-employer orientation and own businessman mentality.  We all knew nursing home residents and patients in hospitals would be extremely vulnerable in a pandemic.  While we all share the shame for the hundreds of deaths in nursing homes, politicians at all levels bear the greater responsibility. They control the funding of such facilities.  Our personal shame comes from the fact that Ontario gave Ford a majority.

Joe Grogan/retired prof., Humber College, 1969 to 2003/Schools of Business and Liberal Arts