Letter to Romanow
The Kingston Health Coalition is a coalition of individuals and groups on Kingston, Ontario that are concerned about protecting and improving our public health care system. We are a member of the Ontario Health Coalition.
We would like to provide you with some Kingston examples of the problems caused to our health care system by increasing private sector involvement. The steady encroachment of the private sector on public health care in our community has been detrimental patients. Our experiences reinforce the arguments made in the brief by the Ontario Health Coalition and we would like to strongly endorse that submission.
Kingston residents believe that public Medicare is one of the defining and valued institutions in our society. We believe that public health care is the most cost effective and just way to provide the best quality care for our population. It is also the method of health care delivery that provides the best and most sustainable way to change the health care system to meet our changing needs.
The following examples are drawn from Kingston specific instances that illustrate some of the problems with increased for-profit involvement in health care. They do not represent the full range of difficulties with privatizing our system, but may provide you with some new information from our community to help you in your deliberations.
1. Five years ago the delivery of home care in our community, as with all communities in Ontario, was turned over to a system of competitive bidding. The results of our first full contracting process saw 7 of 9 contracts for home care go to for-profit agencies. This seems to be a logical consequence of the tendering process.
2. In the first round of home care contracting out, a local non-profit agency, Hospice Kingston, which literally developed one of the main instructional programs for palliative care nurses, lost the contract to Allcare, a for-profit agency, that did not have a functioning, fully trained palliative care team. Subsequently, Allcare had to hire Hospice Kingston to train its nurses in palliative care. This instance raise serious doubts about the ability of the RFP process to protect quality rather than reward low bids. It also decimated an award winning, non-profit, community based agency.
3. A second for-profit agency that won a contract for palliative care, Caregivers, went bankrupt, soon after it won the bid. This caused significant disruption in the care of some patients and turmoil in other agencies and for caregivers. It also raises serious doubts about a process which put a priority on ensuring the financial stability of companies that won the contracts. This would not be a problem in a public system.
4. When the provincial government reduced funding for home care our local CCAC cut two programs, occupational therapy and social work. Currently, in Kingston, home care patients can not access these services without paying privately. Both of these services play a critical role in helping people live at home, especially for lower income people, who now will not be able to access these programs. We believe that this is partially a result of home care not being covered by the provisions in the Canada Health Act.
5. It is also important to note the importance of home care to the functioning of our system. Another consequence of the provinces funding reduction to our local home care program was that the program had to stop taking admission from the hospital for a short period of time. Within two weeks after they stopped new admissions there were 34 people in hospital beds who would normally have been discharge to home care. This back log into the hospital had a significant effect on the operations of the hospital. Once again showing the importance of a national program to provide home care.
The Kingston Health Coalition supports the recommendations of the Ontario Health Coalition, specifically:
· Replace the cuts from the federal transfers to the provinces for health care. Ensure stable and adequate funding in the future.
· Ensure that more public health care funding reaches patients by taking the profit motive out of health care.
· Ensure greater accountability in spending and policy.
· Rebuild and modernize the comprehensiveness and accessibility of Medicare through new federal legislation to cover health care services from acute care to home care.
· Introduce a publically-delivered universal drug plan
· Create good health through rebuilding and extending a commitment to the detriments of health
· Reform the delivery of primary care and expand the role of non-physician providers
· Provide national leadership with respect to human resource planning, recruitment and retention.
Thank you for your attention to our concerns. For further information we can be contacted at 613-374-5258. Our address is 7846 Bedford Road, Hartington, Ontario, K0H 1W0.
On Behalf of the Kingston Health Coalition, best of luck with your deliberations,
Ross Sutherland, Co-Chair, Kingston Health Coalition.