Category Archives: Uncategorized

The TPP will hurt health care

Canada’s health care system will suffer deep and irreversible damage if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is ratified in its current form.

The TPP is a free trade agreement negotiated between 12 Pacific Rim countries: Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, the United States, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.  Together, these countries represent 40 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The deal was finalized in October 2015, and signed in February of 2016, without public consultation.  But public outcry against ratification of the deal – partly because of its potential to increase Canadian drug prices – has prompted the federal government to announce a study of the agreement and to solicit input from individuals and organizations.

Groups such as the Canadian Health Coalition and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) have dissected the deal, and examined its potential impact on the affordability of drugs in this country.  The consensus is, drug costs will rise if the TPP is ratified.

Canadians already pay significantly more than other countries for their medicines.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says Canadians pay the fourth-highest costs for pharmaceuticals – about US$713 a year, compared to the OECD average of US$515.

The TPP will only make things worse for all of us – especially for the roughly 25 per cent of Canadians who, according to a 2013 EKOS Research poll, already can’t afford their medications.

The TPP contains a provision that would allow pharmaceutical companies to extend the length of their patents to account for “regulatory delays” in the approval of drugs.  This allows the companies to retain a monopoly over the market and keep prices high. It also keeps generic drugs, which are much more affordable, out of the market for a longer period of time.  It’s estimated that these delays would cost Canadians an additional $636 million a year.

Also worrisome is the mechanism for Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the TPP.  It allows foreign investors, including pharmaceutical companies, to sue the government if they feel that a policy decision is in any way blocking their right to make a profit.  These cases are usually adjudicated by a tribunal of arbitrators who are appointed by both sides.  The tribunal does not have the power to overturn a government policy decision, but it can order the Canadian government to pay foreign investors huge sums of money.  That award can then be enforced through Canada’s court system.

When all is said and done, Canadian taxpayers will be left to foot the colossal bills.

Yet another major concern is that the investor protections granted by ISDS could eventually lock in privatization.  If, for example, Canada privatized an area of our health care system by opening it up to foreign investment, it would be very hard to bring those services back into the public health care system.  Those foreign investors would be able to use the ISDS mechanism to sue for compensation, making it too costly for governments to revert back to the public system.

The potentially huge costs associated with the ISDS process and extended patent terms afforded by the TPP would also make it too expensive for the government to consider expanding our public health care system.

Canadians and their governments could save billions if there was a national pharmacare strategy to complement our national medicare program.  It’s something Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins, acknowledges and supports.  Ratifying the TPP would effectively undermine any effort to make universal drug coverage possible because of the exorbitant drug costs governments would face under the deal.

Our publicly funded system has always been guided by the principle that health care should be universal and based on need, not one’s ability to pay.  Trade agreements, on the other hand, are motivated by corporate profit-making.  These conflicting values should not mix.  In fact, that was a key finding in the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada headed by Roy Romanow in 2001.  It recommended that international trade deals “make explicit allowance for both maintaining and expanding publicly insured, financed and delivered health care.”  Yet there are five chapters in the TPP that relate specifically to medicines.

Furthermore, and perhaps most confounding, there is no evidence that the TPP will do wonders for the Canadian economy.  A study from the C.D. Howe Institute suggests that the impact of the TPP on the Canadian economy would be minimal at best.  It predicts there will be a mere 0.068 per cent growth in GDP by 2035 if we ratify the deal, and only a 0.026 per cent drop if we don’t.

So why would a country that has so little to gain even consider the TPP?  These are the important questions we need to be asking our government.

The good news is that the TPP is not a done deal. It needs to be ratified by at least six countries which represent at least 85 per cent of the GDP of the group of nations involved in the deal.

The Canadian government is interested in what we have to say and has already extended its public consultations twice.  The deadline for written submissions is now October 31, 2016.

If you care about the future of medicare, let the government know.  You can make a written submission on the TPP agreement to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade and email it to: For more information on how to provide a written submission click on the following link: Guide for Submitting Briefs to House of Commons Committees.


Confronting the problem of violence against health workers

It’s a dangerous time to be working in health care.

On any given day, health care workers are at risk of getting stabbed, choked, punched, bitten, spat on or verbally abused.

According to information obtained by the Toronto Star, the number of reports of violence on hospital staff in the University Health Network (which includes Toronto Western, Toronto General, Toronto Rehab and Princess Margaret Hospital) nearly doubled between 2012 and 2014.

Hospital administrators attribute the rise to changes in standards for reporting incidents – something unions that represent health care workers have been fighting hard to improve.  But worker advocates say continuing cuts to our health care system, and the ensuing cuts to hospital staff, are also a factor.  When there is less staff, the staff that remain become more vulnerable to assault because they might have to work alone and because they have to manage more patients.

Nine consecutive years of hospital funding cuts by Ontario’s Liberal government have only added to the already precarious situation health care workers face on the job.

In April of this year, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine drew attention to the problem of violence against health care workers in the United States.  It found that incidents are under-reported and largely ignored.   The authors reviewed previous studies on workplace violence and discovered that in one study in particular, 46 per cent of nurses surveyed had reported workplace violence in their last five shifts – almost half.  If this were happening in any other profession, it wouldn’t be tolerated.

All health care workers in all health care settings are at risk of becoming victims of violence, but due to the unpredictability of their patients, those most at risk are mental health care workers.

One recent study from the University of Melbourne concluded that mental health nursing is the most dangerous profession in the Australian state of Victoria.  The study found that mental health nurses were more likely to be assaulted than police officers.

It doesn’t take too much digging to see parallels here at home.

The examples are too numerous to list, but here is a sample:

In December of 2014, a nurse at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto was severely beaten and suffered a serious head injury.   A similar beating had occurred at the hospital the year before.

Royal Ottawa Health Care Group faced five charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act relating to the stabbing of a nurse in October 2014 at its Brockville Mental Health Centre division.  The nurse was stabbed repeatedly in the throat with a pen, by a patient in the forensic treatment unit.  Health care workers in that unit provide care for patients who are found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible by the courts, or who are undergoing psychiatric assessments ordered by the court.

And just earlier this year, there was a serious violent incident in the forensic unit at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.  A worker was stabbed in the back by a patient who had obtained a screwdriver from a job training program within the hospital.  Three other workers were also injured in the same attack. The next day, three more workers were hurt in another attack.  And just one month later, there was another violent incident that resulted in injuries to three other workers.

Workers at Waypoint see this disturbing pattern.  Many of them fear they might be next.

“These people need a safe environment, and they’re not getting it from management,” says OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas.  “We want the government to step in now and do something to prevent further attacks, before someone gets killed.  Having worked in the mental health care field myself, this is a cause I’m whole-heartedly committed to.”

The OPSEU local representing this group of workers has launched a campaign to raise awareness about safety concerns at Waypoint.

Their worries can be summed up in a phrase that is echoed daily in the halls of the forensic unit.  “Stay safe, be safe,” is what caregivers at Waypoint say to each other at the beginning of their shifts.  This serves as a reminder to everyone to be vigilant.  They must always be on guard; they must always be assessing their surroundings – all while providing care to patients who have committed serious crimes.

“We at Waypoint face unpredictable patients all the time,” says OPSEU Local 329 President Pete Sheehan.  “Staff are getting assaulted, verbally abused or threatened with violence on a daily basis.   That can wear on you. And it affects your life outside of work.  I see people who develop substance abuse issues and mental health issues because of the things they experience on the job.”

Workers at Waypoint say they know their jobs are inherently dangerous.  But there are things their employer isn’t doing that could make them feel safer.  Through the campaign, workers at Waypoint are hoping to secure the following safety provisions:

  • a commitment from management to fix structural problems with the public-private partnership building, which workers say are contributing to the incidents of workplace violence;
  • that management hire security professionals on the wards to intervene preventatively and act in situations involving workplace violence;
  • the installation of more walk-through metal detectors; and
  • the implementation of safe staffing levels that would prevent scenarios where an employee has to work alone.

Dedicated security staff could also help reduce violence in regular hospitals.  One example of a facility that currently employs security staff is Michael Garron Hospital – formerly the Toronto East General Hospital.  When one staff member who commuted a long distance was asked why she continues to work at the hospital, she replied by saying it was because she felt safe.

There is no question the government needs to do more to protect health care workers from workplace violence.  Mandatory safety protocols are a good start.  After all, these are the people who are there for us when we get sick.  If we don’t take care of them, how can we expect them to take care of us?

Check out for more information on how you can get involved.


All health care workers matter

Nursing week is an annual opportunity to honour the dedication of nurses and acknowledge their contribution to the health care profession.  But this year, the otherwise celebratory tone of the event started on a sour note.

On May 9, 2016 the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) came out with a position paper about “reclaiming the role of the RN.” Essentially, the RNAO called for eliminating registered practical nurses (RPNs) in acute care settings.

In Mind the safety gap in health system transformation:  Reclaiming the role of the RN, the RNAO argues for an “interprofessional health human resources plan” for Ontario.  The association says their proposals would result in improved patient safety and health outcomes.

The report lays out eight recommendations.  Among them, the RNAO calls on the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to “legislate an all-RN workforce in acute care effective within two years for tertiary, quaternary and cancer centres… and within five years for large community hospitals.”  It also calls for all first home health care visits to be completed by an RN, and for minimum RN staffing standards in long-term care homes.

The RNAO argues that cuts in health care have resulted in a nursing mix that favours RPNs over RNs. It says hospitals are replacing RNs with RPNs because they can pay them less, but are not taking into account the better patient outcomes that registered nurses afford.

There is no conclusive evidence that proves that a hospital that only employs RNs will have better health outcomes for patients.  There is a vital role for both RNs and RPNs in delivering a high standard of care.

RPNs must complete a focused two and a half year study of nursing and are governed by the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO).  The Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (RPNAO) says,  “RPNs work anywhere that health care is provided: in hospitals, homes for the aged, nursing homes, retirement homes, public health units, community nursing agencies, clinics, private practice, industry, schools, child care centres, and children’s camps.”  Some of them go on to complete post-graduate studies to practice in specialized areas such as gerontology, obstetrics, surgery and mental health.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information lists RPNs as being among 30 allied health professionals considered to be the greatest assets of our health care system.  They are on the same list as doctors, registered nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and psychologists.  These professionals all work together in a team that varies according to the needs of individual patients.

Patient care is multi-faceted and dependent on the contributions of many workers who also provide indirect care.  These “hidden” health care workers include filing clerks, records managers, receptionists, cooks, cleaners, maintenance staff and security personnel. Sadly, their work is often only recognized when it does not get done.

According to a paper published by Women and Health Care Reform called Hidden Health Care Work and Women, “to plan for and deliver good quality health care, we need to consider the whole health care workforce, not just a part of it.”

Let’s put this in perspective.  A doctor can diagnose and set a course for treatment when a patient is admitted into the hospital.  But that’s just one part of the patient’s health care journey.  Before the doctor came to the diagnosis, a medical lab technologist was probably involved.  While the patient is in the hospital, a nurse will monitor his/her condition; the records manager will ensure the patient’s history is up to date; the cook will prepare healthy food while taking into account dietary restrictions; the cleaner will follow protocols to minimize the spread of infection; the social worker will visit to talk about how the patient is coping; and the occupational therapist will try to make it easier for the patient to get around, once they are feeling better.

Health care cuts in Ontario have placed a huge burden on hospitals to do more with less and as a result, there are fewer people doing more work. RNs, RPNs and other health professionals need to band together to convince the government that this is unacceptable.  The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has clearly indicated its intention to put patients first. But in order to do that, we need more funding to ensure adequate staffing and the full range of health care professionals who can work together to offer the best care possible.

Health care is a team effort.  Every member of that team has the potential to influence patient outcomes.  Instead of arguing that one health care professional is better than the other, we should be acknowledging the value of all health care workers.


CBS CEO backpedals on paying Canadians for their plasma

The Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Blood Services is doing some damage control by backtracking on the agency’s position on plasma collection.

In an internal blog post last week, Dr. Graham Sher told employees at CBS that he’d like to set the record straight. Sher stirred up controversy recently with his comments on the issue of paying people for their plasma.

CBC reporter Kelly Crowe revealed Sher would not rule out a pay-for-plasma model, if CBS was not able to increase plasma collection in Canada with unpaid donors.  The fact that Sher would even consider such a scenario is unacceptable, and OPSEU has called on him to resign.

Sher’s blog post tries to convince workers he was merely responding to a hypothetical situation, with a hypothetical answer. He tells them, “it has never been our practice, and it is not our plan to pay donors.”

Notice he doesn’t say it will “never” be his plan to pay donors.

In the blog, Sher talks about CBS’s goal of becoming less reliant on plasma-derived pharmaceutical products from the U.S.  These are drugs that are used to treat conditions like immune disorders and Alzheimer’s. He says Canada currently collects 200,000 litres of plasma per year, and that we will need to collect at least double that amount in order to achieve some level of self-sufficiency.

Right now, there is no concrete plan on how CBS will do that.  But Sher says “it may mean building a stand-alone plasma system with a dedicated and specialized staff, recruiting plasma donors in densely populated locations where it makes the most sense to do so, and investing in new infrastructure to support plasma collections.”

That sounds like the kind of system that would be easy enough to convert to a pay-for-plasma model, if at some point CBS says it’s not getting enough voluntary donations to meet its plasma targets.

And how is it that we are all of a sudden in such dire straits, when just four years ago we were overflowing in plasma?  In fact, an abundance of plasma was the justification used for shutting down a Thunder Bay collection centre that produced 10,000 litres a year. The closure of that clinic put 25 people out of work.

This is what the Chief Operating Officer at the time, Ian Mumford, had to say:

“Over the past few years, there has been a consistent downward trend in the demand for plasma and based on our current projections we will need to collect approximately 10,000 fewer units next year.”

Was CBS simply the victim of flawed projections and lack of foresight?  Or is something else going on?

Currently in Canada, there is no licensed processor to convert plasma into various drug therapies.  Our plasma is exported to the United States where it undergoes what is called “fractionation.”  It is then imported back into the country in the form of pharmaceuticals to meet the needs of Canadian patients.

But that could soon change.

Sher says two private companies are about to enter the fractionation business.  Ian Mumford, who left his job as the second-in-command at CBS seven months ago, is now a director of one of them.

In the 1980s and 1990s more than 30,000 Canadians were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C through tainted blood and blood products.  At the time, the Red Cross had been operating Canada’s blood program.  An inquiry was launched to examine what became known as our country’s worst ever public health disaster.  The inquiry was led by Justice Horace Krever and set out 50 recommendations to keep Canada’s blood supply and blood products safe.   The recommendations included:  that blood is a public resource, donors should not be paid, and no part of the national blood operator’s duties should be contracted out.

If Canada wants to be truly self-sufficient in plasma products, CBS should be trying to find a way to process the plasma it collects in-house.  That way, we could have real confidence that the head of the agency is serving the public, and not profit-driven businesses.  We would know that the plasma we are collecting is coming from healthy unpaid donors, that it is processed under the highest standards, and that the pharmaceuticals produced will be used to treat Canadians.

Dr. Sher needs to be reminded of the real reason he has a job.  Canadian Blood Services was established as a result of the Krever inquiry.  Sher should be following Krever’s recommendations to the letter, not making a mockery of them.

Click here to see Sher’s full internal blog.

An ounce of prevention: Fighting poverty improves health

Imagine two children, born on the same day, at the same hospital, to different parents.  One family is rich, the other is poor.  Experts say one of those kids will grow up to be healthier than the other.

Which one do you think it is?

We all know that we could be healthier if we ate better food, quit smoking and exercised more.  But there’s another idea that’s perhaps just as important or even more important in influencing our health.  Doctors, health advocates and researchers have been saying for some time now that social and economic factors have a huge impact on health outcomes.

Experts have identified a number of social factors that influence health. What is your income? What kind of house do you live in? Where do you work? What is your education? Do you have access to healthy food and recreation programs? All of these factors affect not only your physical, but also your mental, health.

There is overwhelming evidence that shows people with lower incomes die earlier and have higher rates of chronic diseases or conditions. In 2013, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) held a series of town-hall meetings on the issue of what makes us sick. Their conclusion was simple: poverty kills.  In the report that followed, CMA President Dr. Anna Reid had this to say about the importance of the social determinants of health:   “If a patient comes to a doctor with asthma, we can prescribe medication.  But if that patient goes back to a home where there’s mould inside the walls and the air is unhealthy, all the medication in the world won’t make that person better.  If a patient has diabetes, we can prescribe medication, and the physician or another health care provider can explain to that person the importance of a healthy diet. But if that patient can’t afford fresh fruits or vegetables, or if there isn’t a proper supermarket in the community where these foods can even be found, that diabetes is going to be much more of a challenge.”

A new report by Health Quality Ontario also found that the poorer people are, the more likely they are to suffer from multiple chronic conditions and to be overdue for screening tests.  The report shows half of the people living in the poorest urban neighbourhoods in Ontario are overdue for colorectal cancer screening, compared to just over one-third of the people in the richest urban neighbourhoods.

The stress of being poor also has mental health repercussions. The recent spate of suicide attempts in Attawapiskat highlights the need to pay closer attention to the social determinants of mental health, as well.  Attawapiskat First Nation community leaders declared a state of emergency after 11 people tried to take their own lives in one day earlier this month.   In the past seven months, more than 100 of the 2000 people that live in the remote northern Ontario community have attempted suicide. The youngest was 11.  The oldest was 71.

The regional chief has blamed the crisis on the social determinants of First Nation health.  Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says the Indian Act created third-world social conditions that have led to health and suicide emergencies.  Chief Day says there “must be a combined and coordinated effort from all levels on all aspects of First Nation health in order to repair this broken system.” Day also says:  “The cycle of poverty, poor health, suicides, violence will continue for another generation if determinants of health are not addressed immediately.”

The Chiefs of Ontario have presented the federal government with a framework on how to fix this broken system.  Their recommendations include implementing mental health and addiction services.  They’re also calling for a plan to eliminate poverty through investments in housing, healthy affordable food, infrastructure, and education and training.

Federal health minister Jane Philpott doesn’t think there is a need for a national suicide prevention strategy, but she does believe in the importance of the social determinants of health.  At a conference in Ottawa in early April, Philpott said “when people have access to high quality of education, when they have access to jobs, when they have money in their pockets, when they have hope – that’s when we are going to be able to make progress.”

The Ontario government has shown some interest in addressing the correlation between income disparities and health disparities.

In 2008, the province rolled out a plan to reduce poverty.  The strategy yielded some progress early on.  The poverty rate dropped to 15.1 per cent in 2011, but by 2013 it was back up to 15.6 per cent – almost as high as it was initially in 2008.  In 2014, the province committed to a new five-year poverty reduction strategy.  In 2015, it also made a commitment to end homelessness in Ontario within 10 years.

Earlier this year, the Ontario budget pledged free tuition for students from low-income families.  The government said it was combining existing programs to create an Ontario Student Grant.  Starting in September 2017, the grant will pay for “average” college or university tuition for students from families earning incomes of $50,000 or less.   The Canadian Federation of Students has welcomed the idea.  But there has been some criticism on how the system will work.  Students will still be on the hook for possible travel and living expenses.  In addition, those who want to pursue programs with higher-than- average tuition fees, such as engineering, will have to apply to another program to cover the extra cost.

While these may be steps in the right direction, we could do so much better.  Every action our government takes now to tackle inequality could make a real difference in the health of generations to come.

We need to keep advocating for public policies that do more to address inequities.  And we need to make sure governments follow through on their promises.  Single mothers are among those that persistently struggle to get by on low incomes.  Pushing the government to eliminate the gender wage gap and implement a higher minimum wage could help pull many families out of poverty.

We have a responsibility to take action now, so that one day it can be the birthright of all children to enjoy a long and healthy life. calls out minister over for-profit paid-donor plasma clinics

A lobby group fighting to ban paid-donor blood clinics is accusing the federal government of misleading the public. is taking on the Health Minister Jane Philpott, for allowing a private clinic to open in Saskatoon and pay people for their plasma.

In a scathing letter to the minister, co-founder Kat Lanteigne calls for public consultations on paid-donor clinics and picks apart the arguments that Philpott has provided for putting our blood supply at risk – again.

Haven’t we learned from our past mistakes?  Back in the 1990s, a Royal Commission into the blood system, led by Justice Horace Krever, laid bare the mistakes that infected 30,000 Canadians with AIDS and Hepatitis C. We shouldn’t repeat those mistakes.

By allowing Canadian Plasma Resources/Exa-Pharma to open a clinic in Saskatoon, Canadian Blood Services is ignoring key recommendations in Krever’s report.  CBS is supposed to be guided by the principles that blood is a public resource, donors should not be paid, and the safety of the blood supply system is paramount.

Yet our federal Minister of Health is supporting private for-profit plasma clinics!

Read the full open letter from to the minister below:

Dear Minister Philpott, (an open letter)

It is inappropriate to use the office of the Federal Government to spread information that is fundamentally untrue about Canada’s tainted blood tragedy.

There will be no historical revisionism on Canada’s tragic blood story. You are making a mockery out of this situation and it is a great disappointment to our country and to the brave Canadians who fought for the safe blood system we have today.

Your office and your staff need to be reminded that safe blood products were available at the height of the tainted blood crisis but every single vial of tainted blood was distributed across Canada anyway. Every. Single. One. The last 98 vials were sent to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and infected young children who were there for care with AIDS. The Red Cross distributed bad blood knowing it was tainted. Health Canada never issued a recall on those tainted blood products and it took years for our government to issue proper trace back calls.

The viral inactivation process existed for over ten years when Justice Krever made his recommendations in 1997 and Canada had access to safe blood products throughout that period. Your argument that no one has been killed in 20 years by a deadly virus through a blood product so it is okay to deregulate and privatize plasma collection is an inscrutable defense. We don’t need another tainted blood crisis to understand the importance of protecting our Canadian voluntary blood system.

Your office continues to reference a small company in Winnipeg that makes a very rare medication to help prevent women from having stillbirths as a reason to allow private paid plasma in Canada. This facility has been in Canada for over forty years and was cited in Krever’s Report as a “rare circumstance”. It was not meant to be used as a precedent for Canadian Blood Services to abdicate their responsibilities of blood and plasma collection.

It is a fact that Germany has experienced difficulties in retaining voluntary donors due to the competitive model of private plasma centers. It is also true that the poorest and most vulnerable population in America are selling their plasma because they do not have enough money for basic needs. Just because we now have to buy blood products from the US made from their model does not mean we need to mirror it in Canada. We should be making progress to do better.

The VISA card that is given out to people from Canadian Plasma Resources can in fact be used by other people other than the recipient. Splitting hairs between twenty-five dollars cash and a twenty-five dollar VISA card as being a “non-cash incentive” is a ludicrous argument and beneath the intelligence of anyone in Canada. The WHO does not endorse paid-plasma. Quoting a representative from CPR whose lobby you are supporting in your letter is utterly shameful. Their private aspirations should never circumvent publicly accessed facts.

I work alongside the top blood lawyers in the country who were instrumental throughout the Krever Inquiry. I can assure you that one of the center points of study was plasma based products and how they are made as FACTOR 8 was the plasma based medication that wiped out almost an entire generation of hemophiliacs in our country and infected many of their partners with HIV and hepatitis C. Who on earth is advising you on this file? Really?

You are putting our public blood system at risk without consulting the people in Canada who have a great understanding of the blood issue. Your government has had no public consultations on this issue and you have outright refused to meet with tainted blood survivors and public health organizations who have a different point of view – one that is geared to benefit the Canadian public and protect the integrity of our blood system.

Dr. Sher from Canadian Blood Services testified in support of the legislation in Ontario and he spoke at a town hall that I hosted and stated he did not want private plasma clinics to do business here. If his position has changed and he is promoting privatization then he should be asked to step down. It is not within his mandate as the CEO of our public blood system to promote private blood collection and the Canadian public does not pay him almost three-quarters of a million dollars to abuse his position.

Canadian Blood Services was born out of our blood tragedy and to contravene Krever’s fundamental recommendations is outright scandalous.

A private blood broker does not help Canadians become less reliant on foreign plasma products, all it does is fracture our public blood system. It is the responsibility of Canadian Blood Services to collect plasma and blood on behalf of the Canadian public regardless of what its intended use is. That is part of our social contract and CBS has a vested interested in the health of Canadian blood donors whereas a private company has a vested interest in their profit margins.

The push by the private pharmaceutical industry to take over plasma collection should not supersede the demands of the public. There is no benefit to the Canadian people to have private blood brokers and paid plasma clinics proliferate in our country. It will not bring the cost of these drugs down and it does not assist us to become more self-sufficient – only Canadian Blood Services can do that.

We are Canadians, Minister Philpott, we sing our own national anthem and write our own health policies in this country. We have no bound duty to adopt American blood policies so that pharmaceutical companies can carpetbag off of Canadian blood.

You have absolutely no public support for your egregious decisions to privatize plasma collection in Canada. Private paid plasma clinics must be stopped now in order to protect the integrity of the Canadian blood system.

Our advocacy will not abate.
Kat Lanteigne
Co-Founder of
All Blood Is A Public Resource



Our hospitals are bleeding

It sounded like a good thing. Last month’s Ontario Budget included a $160 million increase for hospital budgets for 2016. It was the first increase in five years.

Unfortunately, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what hospitals need.

The whole package only amounts to a one per cent increase. With general inflation typically running at two per cent and health care inflation at more than four per cent, that’s a cut. In other words, the 2016 budget slashes hospital funding for the ninth year in a row.

Those cuts put lives in danger.

At St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, there is a $26 million shortfall and 180 positions have been targeted for cuts. That will have a huge impact on the care that 1.8 million people rely on.

At Georgian Bay General Hospital in Midland, an operational review is calling for cuts to surgical and obstetric services. If the cuts go ahead, women would have to drive 40 minutes to Orillia or Barrie to give birth.

“The cuts to hospitals like St. Joe’s and Georgian Bay are happening province-wide, in every community,” says Sara Labelle, Chair of the Hospital Professionals Division of OPSEU. “The professionals who provide these services are trying to do more with fewer bodies.

“This is the systematic dismantling of hospitals and public medicare under the guise of ‘transformation,’” she said. “In healthcare, ‘transformation’ has become synonymous with cuts to services or privatization.”

Labelle said hospital cuts were hitting older Ontarians hardest.

“The ones who are paying the biggest price for the cuts are those that built medicare and paid taxes their whole lives.”

Rural and medium-sized hospitals are also struggling to survive because of funding changes. It used to be that hospitals in Ontario received a lump sum to cover their costs. That all changed when the Liberal government introduced a new funding model back in 2012. That’s when funding shifted from being provider-centered, which used to take inflation into account, to the so-called “patient-centered” approach that is in play today.

A patient-centered approach sounds like good thing. But when you break it down, it is anything but.

Here’s how the funding formula works now:

  • 30 per cent of a hospital’s budget is a lump sum payment;
  • 40 per cent of the budget is determined through a formula that takes into account the number of patients served and their health care needs;
  • The last 30 per cent is reserved for specific procedures such as hip and knee replacements, dialysis, and cataract surgeries.

The province funds those procedures at a set price (for example, $8,000 for a hip replacement) and for a number of patients determined by the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). If a hospital ends up performing fewer of those procedures, future funding could go down. This is bad – especially for hospitals in small and rural communities. When hospitals receive money based on how many patients they serve, smaller communities get short-changed. More cuts are inevitable.

Providing a funding increase that is less than inflation might make it look like the government is saving our hospitals. It isn’t. Premier Kathleen Wynne needs to do much, much more.

Band-Aid solutions won’t stop the hemorrhaging at our hospitals.

Stop the cuts!

OPSEU members and health care activists in Hamilton aren’t taking the cuts to St. Joe’s lying down. Join us for a town hall meeting to find out more – and help plan the fightback.

Date:     Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Time:    7: 00 p.m.
Place:    Hamilton City Hall, Council Chambers, 71 Main Street West, Hamilton

More details here.