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Dec. 14, 2019 | Saturday
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Local MPP speaks against proposed changes to the provincial healthcare system
Wayne Gates, MPP for Niagara Falls riding, said he is against healthcare privatization. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott introduced legislation Tuesday which will merge 20 health agencies into one.

Six agencies and 14 local integration networks, including Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and some others, will be consolidated into the new Ontario Health agency.

The government hopes to have 30 to 50 Ontario Health teams that each would be responsible for 300,000 people.

When a group of providers comes together – for example, a hospital, a nurse practitioner clinic and mental health team – they will be fiscally responsible for delivering care to everyone in their geographic area, said Elliott at the news conference. 

People will be able to have access to digital services such as making online appointments, having access to local health records and virtually talking to a specialist.

Family health teams will continue to operate under the new system while the changes will be taking place gradually.

Elliott said the new system will save money but added it’s going to take years for it to “become mature.” However, the minister didn’t say how many people could potentially lose their jobs as a result of this transformation.

The provincial government’s plan to create a “super agency” that would manage healthcare services was first revealed by the Ontario NDP. The 81-page document titled “The Health System Efficiency Act” was leaked to the press last month.

At the news conference on Jan. 31, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the new legislation would allow privatizing health services.

Minister Elliott responded to the claims saying she hasn’t seen the document but it was just a draft and the province would stay committed to the public healthcare system. She also said the government had consulted with the public before drafting the bill.

Wayne Gates who is an MPP for the riding of Niagara Falls, also including Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, spoke against the legislation. 

“Mr. Ford, this message is directly from the constituents who tasked me to be their voice in this Legislature. We say no to health care privatization,” said Gates at the Legislature on Feb. 21.

Gates said he believes healthcare services need to be publicly funded and publicly delivered.

“I think Canadians feel like I do,” Gates told The Lake Report. “I think if elected PC members and Liberal, NDP and the Greens were honest with themselves, most of them would say, ‘I want to keep my healthcare publicly funded and publicly delivered’. I believe they feel that way.”

If healthcare services are privatized, single parents and those who have the leas financial stability could be the most affected, he said.

Money should be re-invested in mental health and preventive care as well as go towards research, proper staffing and reducing wait lines.

“Every private dollar that goes into healthcare means that it’s fewer dollars that go to frontline workers and staff,” said Gates.

Gates posted a video on Facebook on Feb. 5 asking what residents think about the government’s potential plans to privatize the healthcare system. The video has over 353,000 views and thousands of comments.

“That means that people are interested, not only in Ontario but right across the country,” said Gates. “We had people from the United States commenting, saying what kind of disaster it is (up) there.”

When asked how the possible regional amalgamation could affect the healthcare services, Gates said people will have to wait to see what the government is going to do.

“Who knows, maybe they won’t amalgamate. I know the residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake want to keep (the town) as Niagara-on-the-Lake and keep its uniqueness,” he said. “Let’s not try and guess what they’re going to do. I do know that the residents of every community in Niagara and every resident of Ontario deserve to have a publicly funded and delivered healthcare system that works for them.”

Gates said it isn’t the first time the government tries to privatize the healthcare system.

“None of this stuff is new but for my entire adult life, whenever it came to healthcare, I’ve been very clear. We’re not the United States of America. I don’t want to see people going bankrupt in this country because of healthcare costs.”

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