[url=The">http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2009/02/the-fight-to-save-ontario-hospital... Fight to Save Ontario Hospitals[/url]
by Susan Rosenthal [excerpt]
In Toronto on the weekend of January 30-31, 200 representatives attended a "Strategy Summit on Ontario's Planned Hospital Cuts, Downsizing and Restructuring" convened by the Ontario Health Coalition. The OHC includes more than 400 labor and community groups that are committed to defending and improving the publicly-funded, publicly-administered health-care system.
The Summit was called in response to planned health-service cuts that will affect every hospital in the province. If the cuts go through, Emergency Departments will be closed, local birthing services will be eliminated, hospital departments and beds will be lost, paramedical and support services will be privatized and fees for hospital patients and visitors will be increased.
The goal of the meeting was to organize a province-wide campaign to prevent the loss of these essential services. The first order of business was to counter the lies that justify the cuts.
The Cuts are Not a Response to the Economic Recession...
The Cuts are Not About Improving Hospital Efficiency...
The Cuts are Undemocratic...
These Cuts Will Kill...
The Problem is Not a Lack of Money...
What Will it Take?
The dismantling of Ontario's public hospital system has provoked major protests across the province. Public rallies and marches, petitions and thousands of letters to the editor have condemned the cuts. There have been a few small victories - some hospitals kept open, some services saved - but not nearly enough. It was clear to everyone at the meeting that much more will be needed.
There were many suggestions of how to fight back. One was to try to convince the government and the LHINs that their "restructuring" plans are medically unsafe, economically unsound and inappropriate for a recession. The OHC has collected a mountain of evidence that this is so.
Unfortunately for us, the government doesn't care about these things. It serves a business class that is locked in a fierce competition for profits, and ensuring those profits is all that matters.
Another strategy was to mobilize people in numbers large enough to "inflict political pain" on the ruling Liberal party. Suggestions included town hall meetings, mass leafleting and postering, door-to-door campaigning, media events, letters to the editor, rallies, marches, demonstrations and civil disobedience coordinated across the province. This is definitely doable. Since the OHC was launched in 2003, it has organized a province-wide network of activists.
A few voices proposed hospital strikes and sit-ins. These suggestions were not taken up, despite the many union representatives at the meeting. Decades of defeats and compromise have produced widespread demoralization among workers. Nevertheless, the power of organized hospital workers, backed by patients, families and community groups, is our best hope for winning this fight.
The future of our public medical system is at stake. In order to mobilize the forces necessary to stop the cuts, we must convince them that it is possible to put people before profit.