In Kenora—Rainy River, 75% don’t support Ford government health overhaul

KenoraRainy River ON residents polled say they don’t support the massive changes the PCs are planning to make to the province’s health system. 

More than 300 Kenora area residents who responded to the local poll were asked whether they supported different aspects of the PC restructuring of hospitals, long-term care and home and community care. These health system changes include merging the province’s 150 hospitals into 30-50 mega hospitals, privatizing services and subsuming care coordination done through Local Health Integration Networks and the province’s highly regarded Cancer Care Ontario into a new “super agency.”

75% of poll respondents say they don’t support these changes overall, while nearly 80% don’t think hospitals should be merged into mega hospitals. A full 81% don’t think the restructuring will save money.

Commissioned by CUPE Ontario and CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE), the poll was conducted at the end of February in ridings like KenoraRainy River that elected a PC MPP in the June 2018 election. Similar polls were conducted in PC-held ridings across Ontario and the findings will be released throughout May.

“Because of distance, demographics and higher rates of diseases, northern Ontario will be disproportionately affected by this restructuring. Clearly, even in ridings like KenoraRainy River – where, just 10 months ago, PC MPPs were elected, there is little support for the health system changes. We believe that most Ontarians inherently understand the magnitude of the chaos and upheaval Premier Ford and the PCs are unleashing on patients and they don’t support it,” says Michael Hurley, OCHU/CUPE president.

Hurley was in Kenora on Monday for the release of the local poll that also probed whether there was support for privatization of several health services and whether respondents thought this kind of restructuring would save any money. However, the poll did not survey respondents on the PC government recent provincial funding cuts to public health prevention programs as well as the amalgamation of 35 public health units down to 10 and the merging of 59 municipal ambulance services into 10.

More than 80% don’t support the province requiring health care providers to use a single private corporation for goods and services – a reform that could squeeze out many small local businesses now supplying health care organizations. “Further,” says Hurley, “because privatization of clinical and support services is at the heart of this government restructuring, ultimately, our members will do what needs to be done to protect the services that they deliver. We are building widespread opposition against this PC plan.”

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn says that the PCs “didn’t consult with Ontarians about these health system changes, and they don’t have the public’s support to make them, the polling shows. Keep in mind, this polling was done before the PC cuts to public health. We believe Ontarians understand the value of public health prevention programs – like containing infections and communicable diseases. Cutting them is dangerous and the PCs are putting us all at risk.”

On April 30, about 10,000 Ontarians from all over the province attended a rally opposing the PC health care restructuring.

Heather Duff, chair of CUPE Ontario’s health care workers group, notes that “public health care is very important to Ontarians and it’s why thousands rallied at Queen’s Park. There are so many people opposed to this restructuring and demanding to be heard by the PCs at their doorstep – our provincial Parliament.”

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