Thomas: Ontarians want hospitals fixed and funded, not privatized

The following Op Ed by OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was published in the Toronto Sun on Friday, June 25, 2021.

Thomas: Ontarians want hospitals fixed and funded, not privatized

Public, not private healthcare is the solution to the crisis created by COVID-19

Turn a public crisis into an opportunity to privatize. It’s a familiar tactic that has been part of political playbooks for decades.

Now, after thirty years of cutbacks, Ontario’s hospital capacity problem has become a genuine crisis after 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some politicians are trying to make a play for our hospitals.

For Ontarians, however, COVID-19 is not an opportunity; it’s a devastating tragedy.

Even as we round the corner on this crisis, legitimate threats of deadly variants and future pandemics still loom.

It’s no surprise that Ontarians are deeply concerned for their health and the health of their loved ones, and that’s reflected in the latest Nanos public opinion poll, commissioned by OPSEU/SEFPO.

The pandemic has proven that our hospitals have a major problem when it comes to managing capacity to meet our health care needs.

According to the poll results, most Ontarians are aware of the problem and realize that we must take action; they want our hospitals fixed and properly funded.

How we solve this crisis matters to them.

In fact, eight out of ten Ontarians think having a properly funded universal public healthcare system is a better way to prepare for future health threats than privatizing health care services.

I’ll say it again for those in the back: 80% of Ontarians think our universal public health care system is our best bet in a crisis.

Why? Perhaps they don’t trust the for-profit sector to put patients before profits.

Perhaps they’ve witnessed, in horror, the fallout of a privatized long-term care system; the terrible neglect and the unnecessary loss of so many lives at the hands of for-profit providers.

It’s enough to make anyone’s stomach turn.

It should never have come to this. Under a fully public model, the magnitude of this crisis could have been lessened. Ontarians understand this well.

Public support has always been stronger than the influence of well-funded lobbyists and predatory profiteers chomping at the bit for a slice of the publicly funded pie.

The COVID-19 crisis didn’t change that, but it solidified and emboldened people’s belief in the value of universal public health care.

So, as we venture into the post-COVID world, the public’s rock-solid support for public health care will help to transform the political and social landscape like never before.

We already know that support for public services, and the front-line workers who provide them, is at an all-time high. Now, the vast majority of Ontarians want to see more funding and staffing for Ontario’s hospitals.

They understand that building up hospital capacity makes us better prepared for future unexpected emergencies, like COVID-19.

Ontario’s post-COVID recovery will demand a bold vision and a serious investment. It’s what Ontarians have come to expect and will continue to demand.

COVID-19 created a crisis, and it’s clear that public health care is the solution. I have no doubt Ontarians will go to the voting booth to prove it next year.

— Warren (Smokey) Thomas is the president of OPSEU/SEFPO