CAW economist Jim Stanford and Algoma University professor Dr. Gayle Broad speak at the last two Ontario Health Coalition forums this week.
Broad speaks tonight in Sudbury as part of a panel with SEIU VP Cathy Carroll and OHC Director Natalie Mehra at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 76, 1553 Weller Street.
Tomorrow night Stanford speaks in Windsor with Mehra at the CAW 195/2458 Union Hall at 3400 Somme Avenue.
Both forums begin at 7 pm.
The Ontario Health Coalition heads north this week, hosting community forums in Matheson (Monday), Sault Ste. Marie (Wednesday), Thunder Bay (Thursday) and Kenora (Saturday).
The forums discuss the impact of the provincial spring budget on the future of health care delivery in Ontario.
Trish Hennessy, a director with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, joins OPSEU’s Mary Cory, ONA’s Diane Parker, CAW’s Kari Jefford and OHC Director Natalie Mehra Thursday night in Thunder Bay.
A former journalist, Hennessy is director of the CCPA’s income inequality project, which specializes in research on the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us. She has a BSW from Carleton University and a Master’s degree in Sociology from OISE/University of Toronto.
Ontario’s deficits have more to do with unsustainable tax cuts than they do with public spending says Dr. Reuben Roth, a Laurentian University sociologist.
Roth was speaking Tuesday night in Oshawa as part of a province-wide series of town hall meetings hosted by the Ontario Health Coalition.
“Ontario is no Greece and no Spain,” says Roth, “but we inherited two structural deficits from the Harris government.”
Laurentian University’s Reuben Roth with Natalie Mehra
Roth explains that tax cuts and high unemployment have contributed to the current deficit – neither of which are the result of spending on health care and public services.
Roth says the government even brags that Ontario spends the least on program spending than any other province in Canada.
“If we are the lowest, then why cut more?” he asks.
While the media have portrayed health care as one of the winners of the spring budget season, the reality is the 2.1 per cent average increase in health funding over the next three years will represent major restraint on services. Last summer the Auditor General of Ontario described the previous target of 3.6 per cent as “aggressive” in his pre-election report, suggesting it would lead to a choice between hospital deficits and cuts to services.
The situation is particularly clouded for hospitals, which not only face a zero base budget, but are contending with a new funding formula that could see them receive even less than they did last year.
The Ontario Health Coalition is holding a series of town hall forums across the province in May and June to talk about the impact of the budget on the delivery of public health care.
Confirmed speakers include economist Hugh Mackenzie (Hugh Mackenzie and Associates), Dennis Howlett (Coordinator of Canadians for Tax Fairness), Trish Hennesey (Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Income Inequality Project) and Natalie Mehra (Director, Ontario Health Coalition).
Speakers from OPSEU so far include Sara Labelle (Chair, Health Care Divisional Council), Sandi Blancher (Vice-Chair, Hospital Professionals Division) and Marlene Rivier (President of Local 479, Royal Ottawa Health Group and Chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition.)
Speakers will vary by location.
We sometimes get asked about how we come up with stories for the Diablogue? For us, it’s not a matter of finding stories, but prioritizing material culled from a fast-moving stream.
Last week we focussed on the outrageous decision by Canadian Blood Services to increase imports of American-sourced plasma products while closing the last dedicated Canadian plasma donor clinic in Thunder Bay.
However, there are many issues out there, and only limited BLOG time for us. Here’s just a taste of some of the stories we missed last week:
Part of the fallout from the provincial budget is the decision to postpone a number of capital projects, including new hospitals. Nowhere is this being more felt that in Grimsby, where the community is upset that the new $138.8 million rebuild of the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital has been put on the shelf. The “Rallying for WLMH Committee” has called for a “massive rally” May 2nd. When the hospital faced closure in 1997, more than 7,000 people came out in a similar planned rally.
A new CIHI (Canadian Institute for Health Information) report raised eyebrows when Lakeridge Health and the University Health Network came out at the bottom of list of GTA hospitals. Lakeridge (with sites in Oshawa, Port Perry, Bowmanville and Whitby) pointed out that according to CIHI data, they were doing better than the provincial average on six of seven clinical performance indicators. That includes 80 per cent better than the provincial average when it comes to readmission after hip replacement surgery, and 30 per cent better on knee replacement surgery. An on-line tool that CIHI developed to rate hospitals crashed after it was swamped with users following a front page story in the Toronto Star.
Yesterday 120 Ontario Health Coalition members entered Queen’s Park to meet with 70 MPPs a day after one of the most controversial provincial budgets in recent history. There are a total of 107 MPPs in the legislature.
With health care funding falling below that recommended by the Drummond Commission on Public Service Reform, one opposition MPP told his visitors, “there is a significant bump in the road coming.”
The lobbyists arrived at the MPPs offices to talk about jammed hospitals; thousands on wait lists for nursing home beds, and severely rationed home care. They also expressed their concerns about the prospects for increased privatization.
Internationally respected health researcher Dr. Gordon Guyatt and Economist Armine Yalnizyan are the featured speakers at this year’s Students For Medicare conference taking place March 31st at the Cecil St. Steelworkers Hall in Toronto.
Guyatt will be speaking about the public-private debate and what it means in today’s economic climate. Guyatt was recently appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his work on evidence-based medicine and its teaching. A professor at the department of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster University, he is also an active spokesperson for the Medical Reform Group and sits as a board member of the Ontario Health Coalition.
Yalnizyan will be looking at the climate of fiscal restraint and its impact on health care. Yalnizyan joined the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in 2008 and is a regular panelist on CBC’s Lang and O’Leary Exchange. She is also one of the most read contributors to the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab and is a founding member of the Progressive Economics Forum.
Participants can also take their choice of several small group sessions on emerging issues in Canada’s health care.
The conference runs from 10 am to 2:30 pm and includes lunch.
Registration begins at 9:30 am.
While the conference is free, you should register in advance by clicking here.
When was the last time a major policy announcement was made by government in front of an audience of union members?
On Monday Health Minister Deb Matthews is expected to make a major announcement on health restructuring before the Toronto Board of Trade. Earlier this week Premier Dalton McGuinty made a similar speech before the Canadian Club of Toronto.
With no legislative committees operating at Queen’s Park due a disagreement among the parties as to their composition, Ontario is about to undergo a major restructuring of public services with little to no public input.
While we await release of the 400 or so recommendations of the Drummond Commission, its likely important to remember that Dwight Duncan is the finance minister of the province of Ontario, not Don Drummond.
Recent commentary has suggested the McGuinty government will likely use the Drummond Commission on public service reform as a means of lowering expectations before bringing in a budget that offers what the Premier described in last fall’s election as a more “steady hand.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be significant pain for health care – we are already witnessing eyebrow raising cuts, including Monday’s revelation that $66 million in research grants to hospitals and universities have been eliminated. The impact will be much larger given research grants are usually collaboratively funded between different levels of government and the private sector. The Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario – representing 24 teaching hospitals – estimates the real impact to be “potentially over $360 million.”
We are overdue in extending our congratulations to Dr. Gordon Guyatt who is to be awarded the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnston later this year.
Dr. Guyatt is professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatics at Hamilton’s McMaster Unversity, but is best known to Ontarians as a passionate advocate for public Medicare.
The end of the year announcement is officially for Guyatt’s contributions “to the advancement of evidence-based medicine and its teaching.”