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Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath hosts health care town hall in London

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath speaks with Londoners following a townhall at the Goodwill Centre on Horton St.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath speaks with Londoners following a townhall at the Goodwill Centre on Horton St. Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

As the province awaits a final decision on legislation from the Doug Ford government, Londoners had a chance to voice their concerns over proposed changes to Ontario health care.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath fielded questions from a crowd of more than 200 during a health care town hall at the Goodwill Centre Community Hall Wednesday night.

The official opposition leader was joined by local NDP MPPs Teresa Armstrong, Peggy Sattler, and Terence Kernaghan.

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Elsbeth Dodman was one of about a dozen who had a chance to address the town hall Wednesday.

A Londoner living with autism, Dodman said there’s been a lack of consultation over proposed changes to Ontario’s autism program.

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“We need to have autistic people at the table,” Dodman said.

“There are people who do require help advocating or who communicate differently… but those people need to be and must be included.”

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Dodman added those like her who are over the age of 18 often end up inappropriately placed in a hospital or long-term care facility.

READ MORE: ‘There used to be a light at the end of the tunnel’: London father speaks out ahead of rally protesting new autism program

Others, like Jim Kennedy, spoke to the overcrowding of hospitals in the province.

An employee with St. Joseph’s Hospital, as well as the Unifor National Healthcare Council president, Kennedy told 980 CFPL the problem of overcrowding can be easily seen at the London Health Sciences Centre.

“They now have a policy on which patients are deemed fit to be housed in the hallways,” Kennedy said.

“We should be making policies on how we can fix that problem, instead of getting rules and regulations… and making it okay to do.”

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READ MORE: Londoners to join rally at Queen’s Park to call for end to ‘hallway medicine’

Speaking to London, Horwath described the city as “ground zero” for the problems left behind by Ontario’s previous Liberal regime.

“They left our system hanging by a thread with massive overcapacity in the hospitals, with a total lack of ability for people to get the mental health care services they need here, and of course the opioid crisis over the last couple of years,” Horwath said.

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The official opposition leader added that legislation from the Progressive Conservatives could bring about a drastic change not seen since medicare was brought to the province.

“I spoke to a gentleman [at the town hall] who said that he was fighting to keep our health care system universal and public in the 60s. And now here he is again, all these years later, having to do the same thing.”

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Other concerns heard Wednesday night included a fear of health care privatization and worries of increased bureaucracy with the consolidation of local health integration networks.

The legislation, introduced by the Doug Ford government in late February, has yet to be passed, but Horwath told the town hall that a final vote may arrive as early as next week.