Ontario Budget betrays Universal Public Healthcare

In a provincial budget that notes Ontario is a “low tax” (and low service) province that spends the least on public services of any province in Canada, the government has unapologetically written a provincial budget that will lead to ballooning health care wait lists, more out-of-pocket costs, and unsafe conditions for Ontario patients.

“The funding levels for health care services in the provincial budget are worse than expected,” noted Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “Funding levels announced for hospitals and long-term care are far less than what is needed to maintain existing services, let alone address backlogs. The result will be major cuts to needed care services, longer wait lists for long-term care and unsafe conditions in our hospitals.

“The good news is a substantial increase per year in home care funding, up from the pattern of the last decade which has seen home care shrink as a proportion of health care spending,” she said. “With the new investment, it is time to create a public non-profit home care system. Otherwise this budget is a recipe for privatization by stealth: moving care from public and non-profit hospitals to for-profit home care companies and nursing homes.”

“While increases in home care are needed and will help those who are eligible and appropriate for such services, they are not a total “trade-off” with the hospital cuts,” she explained. “To pretend otherwise is simplistic and manipulative, and ignores the real health needs of thousands of Ontarians.”

“Furthermore, red flags should be raised by the budget announcement of “more flexibility” within long-term care homes’ funding for operators to spend money where they choose, since most of these facilities are owned by for-profit companies, including large multinational profit-seeking chains,” she warned.

After years of corporate tax cuts, the provincial budget proposes to pay for the ensuing deficit by, not only the impending hospital cuts and burgeoning long-term care wait lists, but also by freezing the minimum wage and social assistance, worsening income inequality, one of the most significant social determinants of health.

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