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London Health Coalition Report

February 16, 2024

The following is a report form Peter Bergmanis of the London Health Coalition:

Pre-Budget Hearings:

The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs held its consultations in London on January 17, 2024 at the Armouries. Yours truly, on behalf of the London Health Coalition, with behind the scenes wrangling from our ONDP allies,  was granted standing. This was an excellent departure from the recent past, as for quite a number of years, there have been no in person consultations held within the Forest City.  Despite the frigid temperatures, a handful of our hardy volunteers protested visually outside of the Armouries facility on King Street.

Much to the discomfort of one Mike Harris Jr., Tory government MPP, I was able to lay out the litany of public hospital defunding that has plagued our city for decades.  The London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care, along with the majority of Ontario’s public hospitals, are all faced with arbitrarily imposed deficits by government decree.

LHSC is over $40 million in the hole and SJHC cannot afford to fully staff and run all of its ambulatory care ORs.  Meanwhile, a private independent health facility has been given the green light to build in Komoka and the Ford government has overseen an illegal 270% + increase in tax dollar funding to the for-profit Don Mills Surgical Limited private hospital.

 Increasingly, the exorbitant cost of for-profit staffing agencies are coming under fire for cannibalising hospital staff and contributing to the deficits experienced by public health facilities.

OHC Action Assembly, Toronto, Jan. 20-21, 2024.

This hybrid Zoom and in-person Action Assembly was well attended with over 150 participants from across the province. Many of them were CLC affiliates of the labour council , as well as the community leaders of the local chapters of the Ontario Health Coalition.  Another robust and meaningful spate of actions for the upcoming year has been debated and planning is in progress for implementation.

Pharmacare:

In partnership with the Council of Canadians activist, Lynn Brown, on January the 22nd, I participated in a lobby for pharmacare with MP Arielle Kayabaga at her London West riding office. Although Arielle claims to be sympathetic, she divulged that the Trudeau liberal party seems to be feeling pressure from Pierre Pollievre’s  conservatives to move more towards the right and austerity.  If true , a comprehensive universal pharmacare program may be in jeopardy. Arielle will not likely be a champion, but she claims that she will likely support a vote for Pharmacare.

Canadian Club of London:

Huron College, UWO, January 26th.

The 3 top executives of our public health facilities in the City of London were on stage to present the future as they envision it for health care in London and region.  Although served easy puff questions by moderator Kate Graham, which they readily responded to in the usual trite phrases of “collaboration”, “partnerships”, “diversity”, and “innovation”, during the public question period, I was able to speak truth to power.

Spotlighting the gross underfunding, I forced the 3 CEOs to confess that they were facing enormous deficit challenges. They are all lobbying the ministry of health for more funding.

The temporary CEO of LHSC went so far as to admit that LHSC is only in the median portion of hospitals suffering a deficit. Being in the middle of the pack of underfunded hospitals is nothing to crow about.

Overall, all 3 executives,  Dr. Alex Summers, Roy Butler, and Dr. Chen were content with the status quo and not wishing to challenge powers that be at the Ministry of Health.

Local Coalition Initiatives/Activities and OHC Action Plan Overview:

Bill 7 court challenge is moving ahead and will likely be heard by this September. 

The report of the Small, Rural and Local Hospitals OHC sub-committee (Unprecedented and Worsening) was released in December 2023. Government inaction has led to over 1200 ER closures province-wide last year. Never in the history of the province have there been more ERs closed.

 As the New Year began, more weekly closures have been announced.

Consequently, community driven hearings planned for the winter will lead to another upcoming report.  London will be a possible locale.

LTC:

Southbridge, one of the worst actors in the long-term care for-profit sector, responsible for more deaths than any other long-term care providers in the province, is being rewarded by the Ford government with additional publicly financed, 30 year bed licences.  Ground zero for legal challenges is the notorious Orchard Villa , but communities, such as London, are experiencing an expansion in Southbridge’s footprint and will be assisting the Ontario Health Coalition in an upcoming legal challenge.  Southbridge’s holding at Elmwood Place has been transferred to the City of London to house the homeless.  Wonder what the details of that deal are?

A report on the application of the Canada Health Act in private clinics in Ontario

London and Ottawa are experiencing an aggressive expansion of for-profit healthcare within our boundaries. London even has its own Doctor Profit, Dr. Brian Rottenberg, who is emerging as a leading voice for government support of for-profit private clinics.

The OHC needs information to put together a formal complaint to both the province and the federal government. Unfortunately, this vital work is being delayed by the hesitancy of patients who have been ripped off by unscrupulous medical practitioners. 

We need patients willing to come forward and speak about their experience. For example, information from cataract patients would be very useful. We might also like to get information from patients having joint replacement and surgery.

 Please encourage anyone you know that may fit the profile of such a patient to get in touch with myself for details.

Upcoming Reports to be Released

OR Unused Capacity/Privatization The projected report release date is early February and there are plans for a province-wide press conference, including London.

Although reworking scheduling, the OHC is still planning to have 2 million leaflets ready to distribute, possibly by the end of February. 

Municipal Budget Process:

The London Health Coalition will be closely monitoring to ensure there’s no backpedaling on issues affecting public health services. We will be particularly watching for cost downloading, contracting out of services. Maintenance of our municipal ltc home, Dearness, no loss of EMS services nor amalgamations  at London Middlesex Health Unit are all of concern.

Dullard Weekend School:

This instructor training event for Social Activists will be a residential school held in the spring, possibly June. Details are being hashed out as to the host location.

In Solidarity,
Peter Bergmanis, London Health Coalition

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