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Hamilton hospital staff deliver petition to protest health care privatization

Nurses, PSWs and lab techs rallied in front of St. Joseph's Healthcare's Charlton Avenue campus June 12, 2023 and delivered a petition calling on hospital leadership to oppose Bill 60. Global News

Hamilton health care workers used a giant petition to communicate their dismay for Ontario’s health-reform bill that now allows more private clinics to offer some publicly-funded surgeries and procedures.

A large group of staff including nurses, PSWs and lab techs rallied in front of St. Joseph’s Healthcare’s Charlton Avenue campus and delivered their message to hospital leadership, calling on them to oppose Bill 60.

“Some people are going to leave our public hospitals and leave us with a lot more work,” Jackie Walker, president of SEIU Healthcare’s nursing division, said at the rally Monday.

“So the dangerous, understaffed job that you’re already doing now, the wait times that our families are already experiencing in the city of Hamilton, they’re going up.”

Provincial president Erin Ariss from the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), which represents 68,000 nurses and 18,000 nursing students, suggests Bill 60 will draw fed-up staff out of the public system and exacerbate staffing issues already faced by public hospitals.

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“Time to get back and implement a meaningful stop retention and recruitment plan. That’s how to improve care and shorten wait times, not privatization,” she told supporters.

More than 2,400 workers, representing a majority of the unionized staff at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, signed the petition.

Hamilton hospital staff deliver petition to protest health care privatization - image
Global News

Photo of a petition signed by more than 2,400 workers from St. Joseph’s Healthcare was delivered June 12 to executives at the hospital networks Charlton Avenue Campus.

In a joint statement, demonstrators insisted funneling public tax dollars into investor-led clinics will drain resources away from public hospitals.

Cataract surgeries and diagnostic imaging and testing are some of the procedures that are being expanded while new systems for dealing with hip- and knee replacement surgeries are set to come into place.

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The moves are part of the government’s plan to decrease wait times and reduce a massive backlog of surgeries, which stands at more than 200,000 procedures.

“We’re going to shorten the list; we’re going to give people the care they need in a rapid fashion,” Premier Doug Ford said at question period in early May just before the bill passed.

There are already about 900 private clinics currently operating across the province, the vast majority of them for diagnostic imaging and testing.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Sylvia Jones previously told Global News that Bill 60 will have a “robust framework for oversight,” and that insured services at community surgical and diagnostic centres will be covered with their OHIP card and not a credit card.

There are already about 900 private clinics currently operating across the province, the vast majority of them for diagnostic imaging and testing.

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