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September 2002

'State of emergency' for public health care
The Standard (St. Catharines - Niagara), Fri 13 Sep 2002

Bill Currie

THOROLD - Doug Allan thinks a renewed campaign to save public health care is growing more
important.
"The attack on public medicare is intensifying," Allan of the Ontario Health Coalition said
during a meeting Thursday night in Thorold.

Twenty people gathered at Niagara Region headquarters to hear what the coalition has
accomplished since February, changes in the political climate since and to prepare a plan for a
renewed fall campaign.

Coalition leaders declared a "state of emergency" to try to protect public health care from
greater intrusion by corporations and private-sector government policy.

Allan said more of the health-care system is being privatized. He pointed to the private cancer
clinic at Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto, more privately run long-term care facilities,
contracted out home care and two for-profit hospitals to be established in Brampton and Ottawa.
The government is also planning 25 for-profit MRI and CT clinics.

But Allan said the opportunities to challenge those private-sector health providers are equally
great.

He said citizens are beginning to hear messages spread by public health-care groups such as the
Niagara Health Coalition. And he said the provincial government is softening its Mike
Harris-era rhetoric because it is preparing for an election. Despite the change in tone, Allan
said that doesn't change the plans of Tony Clement, minister of health and long-term care.

Kim Stasiak, co-chair of the Niagara coalition, said private health care will duplicate public
services at first, which would seem on the surface to relieve some systemic pressures. But
because of the continued shortage of health professionals, she fears how both services would be
staffed.

The public system would suffer as more employees were drawn to the private system, she said.

Stasiak said she is hoping the final report of the Romanow commission into the future of health
care will send a clear message to federal and provincial governments to preserve public health
care. The commission's report will be released in November.

The coalition will ask members and others to join a protest in Brampton Oct. 9. The bus trip
will take them to a rally to oppose plans for the privately owned, operated and maintained
William Osler Hospital and the Royal Ottawa Hospital.