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Minister’s explanation for lack of ORNGE oversight is very hard to believe
December 5 2013
Ottawa, ON –The explanation of the Ontario Minister of Health for her failure to read an audit report on ORNGE is difficult to believe CUPE charged today.

“ It is the duty of the Minister to provide oversight to ORNGE, which she has failed to do. She should clearly take responsibility. After the e-health scandal one would expect a heightened degree of attention at the Ministry, but sadly this is not the case. We need a much higher standard of accountability at the Ministry of Health,“ says Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.

“ The same lazy approach to Ministerial oversight is apparent in the case of members of the public gouged illegally by private endoscopy clinics. The advice of the Minister to members of the public victimized by illegal block fees in Ottawa was that they should seek reimbursement. It is the duty of the Minister to ensure that medically necessary health services are accessible and free. It is not the public’s responsibility“, Hurley says.

Private sector delivery of health care has surged under the Liberal government, often with disastrous results. The air ambulance system, ORNGE, E-health, the P3 hospital disaster in Brampton have all featured enormous costs, little oversight and system failures.

“ Medical journals have thoroughly documented the clinical downside of private healthcare delivery, through organizations such as ORNGE: fewer services and higher death rates underwrite profits and fees. This government is poised to push clinical services now delivered in hospitals into private clinics, despite this evidence.”

For more information please contact:
Michael Hurley President,
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)
Failure of the Minister of Health to read the audit files on Ornge reflects a culture of complacency and favouritism to private interests
December 4 2013
Ottawa, ON –The failure of the Ontario Minister to read audit reports on ORNGE reflects a culture of complacency and favouritism to private delivery at the ministry, CUPE charged today. Private sector delivery of health care has surged under the Liberal government, often with disastrous results. The air ambulance system, ORNGE, E-health, the P3 hospital disaster in Brampton have all featured enormous costs, little oversight and system failures.

“ After the e-health scandal, how can the Minister choose not to read audit reports on ORNGE, which highlighted a $9.3 million income for that system’s CEO? “ asks Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions. “ I am afraid that this happens because in its heart, this Ministry favours private sector delivery and has a breathtaking tolerance for system failures and fabulously expensive price-tags for privately delivered services. “

“ The advice of the Minister to members of the public victimized by private endoscopy clinics caught charging illegal block fees in Ottawa was that they should seek reimbursement. There is a laissez-faire policy with respect to private sector interests at the Ministry “, Hurley says

“ The British Medical Association Journal and the Canadian Medical Association Journal have documented the clinical shortfalls in private delivery: fewer services and higher death rates underwrite large profits. We have made this case to the government. What is particularly alarming is that this government is poised to push clinical services now delivered in hospitals into private clinics, despite all of this evidence.”

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE
Harper cuts $8.2 billion for Ontario health care to spend a possible $100 billion on warships, announces tax cuts
November 26 2013
TORONTO, Ont. — In a stark example of policy choices that do not benefit Ontarians, recently the federal Conservative’s said they could spend in excess of $100 billion on two warships and will again cut corporate taxes, while standing firm on removing $8.2 billion in health care funding for Ontarians by 2023.

Today’s report from Canada’s auditor has called into question the amount of money the Harper Conservatives have set aside to buy new warships with the suggestion that the ships will cost more than the budgeted cap.

In the meantime, the Harper Conservative government has announced it does not intend to renew the Health Accord,
a 2004 agreement with the provinces on health care funding. It intends to force through a unilateral plan for health care
that will mean $36 billion less for medicare by 2027-28 across Canada. For Ontario that means a $8.2 billion cut to health funding over the next decade.

“A funding cut of this magnitude will be devastating for Ontario which already has the fewest staff, hospital beds and
services of any province. Because the money the government has set aside for this warship plan may not be enough, Ontarians should be very concerned that even more federal funding for health care will be cut in order to pay for ships.
For Ontario patients who already receive five hours less nursing care than patients in other provinces, this means even
less bedside care for generations to come,” says Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions
(OCHU) the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario.

This is not the first time the Harper government has chosen spending on the military over investments in public health care. Earlier this year the Conservatives announced the purchase of fighter jets at an estimated cost of over $30 billion.

The $8.2 billion cut to the federal health transfer was also roundly criticized by the Ontario Liberal government in its fall economic update. As the federal cuts compound every year, the losses will increase every year after 2023-24. The “cumulative impact would be equivalent to reducing federal funding of health care by an estimated $550 for every Ontarian by 2023,” according to the Ontario Liberals.

“It is clear that the Harper government has little commitment to the universal health system the majority of Canadians value and want to see enhanced, not diminished by funding cuts. That the federal government is contemplating another round of tax cuts – a discredited economic policy that does not generate jobs and comes at the expense of cuts to health services,
is very troubling,” says Hurley.

The 2004–2014 Health Accord provided the provinces 6 per cent a year in stable funding for health care after deep cuts
in the 1990s. Even with the yearly six per cent increase, today, the federal government covers less than one quarter of provincial health spending.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer concluded that over the next 25 years, under the new federal rules federal funding
will fall to an average of 17.9 per cent of provincial health spending and slide to 12 per cent over the next 75 years.

For more information please contact:

Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications

Union calls for halt to move procedures from hospitals to private clinics

Submission by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions / CUPE on the Proposed amendment to O. Reg. 264/07 made under the Local Health System Integration Act, 2006 and A Regulation under the Independent Health Facilities Act - Prescribed Persons .
The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions / CUPE represents 30,000 workers in hospitals across the province, including Registered Practical Nurses, service workers, and administrative workers.
We are opposed to the government’s plan to move surgical, diagnostic, and other work from public hospitals to private clinics. Our objections can be summarized as falling within seven distinct areas:
1] Quality
• Even minor operations can go wrong. We believe that, in contrast with hospitals, it is unlikely private clinics will be able to handle emergencies and that they will likely simply call EMS. Will ambulances be able to move patients to hospitals when things go wrong? (We say “when” advisably, as sooner or later there will be problems.) Indeed, private surgical clinics first came to public attention when a patient died and the paramedics arrived to find a patient with no vital signs. Is it appropriate to establish a system that inherently requires extra time to effectively treat patients who fall into emergency situations? This is particularly troubling as underfunding and restructuring have challenged EMS response times. The government and government officials must be prepared to accept responsibility for such deaths if this plan is approved.
2] Oversight
• Physicians were a key force lobbying for this change so we believe it is inadequate and incongruous that the main form of oversight for the Independent Health Facilities (IHFs) will be the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
• Currently hospitals must report publicly in a variety of ways (e.g. infection rates). Unfortunately, private clinics fall well short of this standard. Instead of weakening public reporting, we believe it needs to be strengthened. This is a step in the wrong direction.
• Notably, we have tried to get information about the billings of private clinics and have been stymied repeatedly.
3] Private not-for-profit?
• We note that the government has promised that the clinics must not be for-profit. But the government has refused to share its proposed regulation. Moreover, even if the regulation does prevent this from occurring, this can be changed very easily by future governments.
Notably, despite the claims by the government that these services will be provided by not-for-profit providers, IHFs are currently overwhelmingly for-profit. In any case, profit can be taken from organizations in many forms (e.g. high salaries).
4] Questionable billings
• The experience in the past is that private clinics aggressively try to find extra forms of funding, often from private citizens.
• The attempted (and failed) introduction of private MRIs and CT clinics by the former Progressive Conservative government saw the clinics try to bill the public directly for what they claimed were “non-medically necessary” MRI and CT tests.
• The government has, just this past summer, gone through a protracted and nasty public battle with private physiotherapy clinics, ultimately revealing that the majority of documents submitted by the clinics did not support their billings.
• The Ontario Health Coalition has shown that its interviews with private clinics revealed widespread extra-billing by existing private clinics. Indeed, the Ottawa Citizen recently has revealed extra-fees billed to the public at a private endoscopy clinic.
• Several years ago, when CUPE first became aware of the threat of such clinics being developed, we brought over the former British Secretary of Health (akin to our health minister). He reported that the British experience with such clinics indicated that they were 11% more expensive than hospital providing similar services.
5] Fragmentation
• Ostensibly, the government’s policy is to integrate health care, but the introduction of clinics obviously goes exactly in the opposite direction.
6] Threat to community hospitals
• Already the government is closing down community hospitals. By moving core work over to private clinics, this threat is deepened. Clinics will obviously only seek to provide services where they can make money. Instead of providing a range of services, community hospitals will see more and more services creamed off, leaving them with the most difficult and least ‘profitable’.
7] Inappropriate consultation
• This is a major change in policy. Yet few Ontarians are even aware of this proposed change. We do not believe this very limited form of consultation is adequate.
For these reasons we ask the government not to proceed with the regulatory changes that are designed to facilitate the movement of hospital work to private clinics.
Union calls on administration of Arnprior and District Memorial Hospital to open beds closed since June and commit to keeping all beds open and properly staffed
November 25 2013
ARNPRIOR, ON, Nov. 22, 2013 /CNW/ - The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and CUPE local 2198 are calling on the administration of Arnprior and District Hospital, to keep open 6 acute care beds, which have been primarily closed since June 2013. CUPE local 2198 represents staff at the hospital.

The budgets for Ontario hospitals have been frozen as a result of a 5-year funding freeze introduced by the Liberals and supported by the Progressive Conservative party and by the NDP. Over the last several summers, bed closures in Arnprior have extended from 15 weeks to 17weeks and now much longer.

"Patients are being held the emergency room where they may have been transferred to the floor because the hospital did not staff 6 available beds in acute care. We believe that the beds are needed and should be re-opened and staffed permanently," says Patrick Garbutt, president of CUPE local 2198. "With a community whose population is growing faster than the national average, we need these beds today, tomorrow and well into the future. When people are recovering in their own community, they have the support of family and friends that promotes a faster recovery. Isolate them from that support structure and there is a barrier to speedy recovery. We must keep these beds and services open and local - this by definition is patient centered care"

"We are extremely concerned about the ongoing closures of beds at the Arnprior and District Hospital. We believe that patients are being redirected to Ottawa for treatments that they should receive in their community. We are afraid that smaller community hospitals, including Arnprior and District, are being deliberately downsized, phased down and phased out. " says Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE's Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

Mr. Garbutt and Mr. Hurley will hold a media conference to discuss this issue on Monday November 25th at 11:00 a.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion, 49 Daniel Street North, Arnprior.

SOURCE: Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (CUPE)

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley, President,
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE

Union promotes community telephone hotline to track impact of hospital cutbacks in Smiths Falls and Perth

November 4 2013
Smiths Falls, ON –The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, the hospital division of CUPE, will hold a media conference to publicize a community telephone hotline, which will allow members of the public to call in about their experiences with healthcare in the Smiths Falls and Perth and area communities.

The budget for the hospitals in Smiths Fall’s and Perth have suffered significant cutbacks as a result of the 5-year funding freeze on hospitals, introduced by the Liberals but supported by the Progressive Conservative and NDP.

Last year the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital announced $4 million in service cuts that included the closure of 12 beds and cuts to physiotherapy and day hospital hours, hip, knee, cataract and day surgeries, palliative care, diagnostic- imaging, and food services.
“ We are asking members of the public to call the hotline about their experience with care at the hospital, whether they were sent to Ottawa or Kingston for hospital treatment and what their experiences with homecare have been“ says Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

“ We committed to continue to follow up with the community about the impact of cutbacks. Once we have the input from the public we can talk more concretely about the impact of the bed and service reductions at the hospitals on individuals and their families “says Hurley.

The hotline number, which is up and running is 888-599-0770.
The media conference will take place at the Legion, 7 St. Mary Street East in Smiths Falls, at 11:00 a.m. November 4, 2013.

For more information please contact:
Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE

Unsafe practices, extra-billings at private outpatient surgery clinics should be cautionary lessons for Ontario health minister

October 7 2013
TORONTO, ON –Recent disciplinary proceedings reviewing the unsafe, dangerous and, in one case illegal, practices of several doctors doing medical procedures at private, out-of-hospital medical clinics, along with reports of questionable billing practices at privately-run endoscopy clinics, should be a cautionary lesson for Ontario’s health minister, who is moving swiftly to expand private surgery clinics in Ontario, says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

Shifting sophisticated procedures, including surgery, from public hospitals to private clinics, is a key element of the Ontario Liberal government push to downsize that many believe threatens the viability of community hospitals.

Private outpatient clinics in Ontario function outside of the legislation that sets stringent operational mandates for public hospitals. Oversight of private doctor-led procedure and surgery clinics falls under the Independent Health Facilities Act and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). Currently private, ambulatory clinics are not mandated to report publicly about infection outbreaks, adverse patient outcomes during procedures, patient deaths, how many patients are transported to public hospital when surgeries go awry and how often emergency services are called.

In a scathing rebuke of a former anesthesiologist who contributed to the death in 2007 of Krista Stryland, a liposuction patient who bled excessively following surgery, CPSO’s disciplinary committee said last week that the doctor “failed to recognize the limitations of what could be done in your outpatient setting when adverse events occurred.”

Further, the committee said there was a failure to ensure that Stryland was stable on entry to the recovery room and that the clinic failed to call for help in a timely manner because there was delay in calling 911. When paramedics arrived at the clinic they found Stryland - who was lying in a pool of blood - with no vital signs.

“Small ambulatory surgical clinics are not equipped to handle the surgeries that go wrong. This is why the US Congress suspended Medicare funding to private clinics after numerous preventable deaths. There are risks with this government policy that Ontarians need to be made aware of,” says Hurley. He urged the health minister to put the safety and health interests of patients first and put the brakes on moving more surgeries and procedures out of hospitals into stand-alone clinics.

In a separate recent disciplinary proceeding, a Trenton area doctor who lost his license to practice following many patient complaints has been also accused of using his clinic to run an illegal mail-order drug business.

In addition to increased scrutiny on patient outcomes and care quality at private, out-of-hospital clinics, the billing practices of some of these independent facilities are also raising concerns as the province is poised to cut more hospital surgeries and procedures and expand Ontario’s reliance on independent, private facilities. Recent reports that a private clinic that took over endoscopy work when the Ottawa hospital’s clinic was closed earlier this year, is asking patients to pay a controversial extra-fee of $80 for procedures covered under OHIP, should be another red flag for the provincial government that “moving surgeries from public hospitals will bring financial exploitation of the public,” says Hurley.

Regulatory changes to facilitate the expansion of private surgery clinics began in earnest in the dead of summer without any significant public consultation. The changes do not require approval from the Ontario Legislature, so will not be publicly debated by MPPs. OCHU has urged the Liberal government to hold province-wide hearings on the regulatory changes and on the implications of this major policy shift.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley
President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE) 416-884-0770

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications
Premier must lead by example in local food initiatives: Innovative Scarborough hospital patient food program should not be victim of cuts
September 30 2013

TORONTO, ON — Based on recent reports, a forced cost-cutting merger between the Rouge Valley Health System and The Scarborough Hospital may mean the loss of a much lauded and innovative fresh, local food patient food initiative. For the last two years the Scarborough hospital has overhauled patient food menus using locally grown food cooked in-house at the hospital kitchen. The fresh patient food program replaced a menu of imported, frozen and unappetizing meals, which are, for the most part the norm at underfunded hospitals province-wide.

“This fresh food program is heralded as a watershed in hospital food reform. It should not be cut – the victim of provincial government health reforms that have very little to do with what’s best for patient outcomes. If serving freshly made, wholesome, local food to very sick hospital patients was a priority for this government, it would happen,” says Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

On April 9, 2013, speaking on the record in the Ontario Legislature on her government’s Local Food Act (Bill 36), which promotes the development of new markets for locally-grown Ontario food, Premier Kathleen Wynne said the following:

“We remain committed to bringing more local food into Ontario’s municipalities, long term care homes, hospitals and schools.”

“We’ll lead by example, through an Ontario government policy requiring ministries to consider local food for procurements ….”

The Premier is also on record as saying “if public dollars are being spent, we want them spent on local produce.”

While increasing the amount of local food bought or funded by Ontario ministries is a key component of the Local Food Act, “unfortunately, the reality is otherwise,” says Hurley. “More and more hospitals are replacing real food with factory food cooked in distant locations and shipped in over the highways. This policy is the opposite of local.”

He encouraged Premier Wynne to not sidestep responsibility for the potential destruction of the fresh food initiative at the Scarborough hospital by ensuring local food initiatives are funded at hospitals, schools and universities.

“If the Premier wants family farms to survive and grocery stores to buy in to stocking more locally grown Ontario food, her government should be making choices that are consistent with a fresh, local food policy for the broader public sector,” says Hurley.

For the last few years OCHU has teamed up with local farmers’ groups on local hospital food initiatives. A local food campaign to keep patient meals at Kingston General Hospital from being contracted out to a factory operation in Mississauga and procure food from local farmers garnered support from over 20,000 people.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley
President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE) 416-884-0770

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications

Community hospitals threatened by secretive attempt to expand private surgical clinics

September 23, 2013
Toronto, ON - Ontario’s provincial government is making a substantive change to how some surgeries, procedures and other ambulatory health services now available through public hospitals will be provided in the future. There is even a rapidly approaching deadline of October 11, 2013 for comments from the public on this significant change to health service delivery that would expand Ontario’s reliance on private clinics and threaten the viability of community hospitals.

“Yet few Ontarians are even aware that this is happening” says Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) in calling for an open province-wide consultation on the regulatory changes. “It appears that the province is purposely doing very little to ensure the public is aware of the regulatory changes that will expand the use of private clinics to deliver publicly-funded health services. In fact the consultation process is so low-key and under the radar that it seems like the province really doesn’t want public scrutiny.”

The changes to health service delivery that include the expansion of privatized primary care are so significant, says Hurley, that the little-known October deadline for comments should be scrapped in order to give “people all over Ontario from Thunder Bay to Windsor and Cornwall a chance to give meaningful input to the provincial government through well – publicized public hearings.”

Although the deadline for public comments to the regulatory changes is looming, the province has outright refused to make public the content of the wording of the regulatory changes. In a muted and little noticed announcement, mid-summer, the health ministry said that regulatory changes (that do not require the approval of the Ontario Legislature) would be made to the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) Act and to the Independent Health Facilities Act. The province does acknowledge that these changes would allow surgeries, procedures and other services to be shifted from community hospitals to private clinics.

“The potential impact of moving services and the funding out of the local hospital in communities like Perth and Smiths Falls, Niagara, Quinte and Uxbridge, where the public hospital has been threatened with closure before, could be devastating. This back door change, combined with the government’s move to centralize hospital services, threatens the long-term viability of community hospitals across the province. The province has an obligation to hear from people in communities across the province before moving ahead with taking more surgeries and services out of local hospitals,” says Hurley.

For more information please contact:
Fred Hahn
President, CUPE Ontario

Michael Hurley President,
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications

New study shows reducing hospital infections would save lives and Ontario health system $400 million a year

September 18, 2013
TORONTO, ON — While the primary motivation to invest in proactive, preventative measures to fight the most common hospital acquired infections (HAIs) should be to save lives, a new American study published earlier this month in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that decreasing HAIs would save hospitals millions of dollars in costs associated with treating infections each year.

The study found that health care–linked infections cost the U.S. nearly $10 billion each year. Based on population numbers, just these five HAIs cost Ontario about $400 million a year. Yet, the study reports that at least half of these infections could be prevented.

An accompanying note from JAMA editors says the journal chose to publish the study in order to “motivate health care administrators to invest in the necessary systems to decrease these infections.”

For nearly a decade the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has urged the provincial government to invest health care funding resources to decrease HAIs at Ontario hospitals.

Unfortunately, superbug rates in Ontario hospitals have not declined significantly. The lack of progress has occurred even while the province’s main strategy to reduce superbugs – hand-washing – has improved markedly. “Clearly more needs to be done,” OCHU president Michael Hurley notes.

In other jurisdictions like Britain, where a number of key initiatives were put in place, including an ongoing program of deep cleaning hospitals, C. difficile cases have decreased considerably since their peak in 2007-08. In the same period, Ontario has not achieved any significant decline in hospital superbugs.

Ontario hospital bed over-crowding is at near world record levels and hospital housekeeping has seen cuts for decades.

“Thousands of patient deaths resulting from HAIs are preventable. Part of the solution has to be decreasing bed occupancy and increasing cleaning. Now we have the findings of an expansive medical study that shows HAI prevention also saves hospitals considerable costs associated with treating infections. It would be good medicine and fiscally responsible for our provincial health minister to invest in the necessary system changes to decrease HAI rates,” says OCHU president Michael Hurley.

While the study published in JAMA on September 2, 2013, is the most recent research to show that investing in preventing HAIs results in considerable cost savings, there have been many similar studies in the last decade.
A 2009 study from the U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that the benefits of prevention range from a low of $5.7 billion (estimating that only 20 percent of infections are preventable) to a high of $31.5 billion.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE

Stella Yeadon, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Communications
New study on C. difficile suggests benefits of rapid testing - Union calls on Ontario to lead in development
September 6, 2013
Toronto, ON –A major study of 12,000 samples from patients with C. difficile in four hospitals in the United Kingdom (UK), published in respected medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases this week, suggests there are benefits of rapid testing for the disease. The study also points to the lack of accuracy of some of the existing testing procedures.

The UK study is “meaningful because its findings can help save lives here in Ontario,” says Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Each year between 600 and 1,000 patients die from C. difficile acquired while in hospital. In 2006 at the Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ontario, 91 patients died during a C. difficile outbreak.

The UK study – the largest of its kind - suggests that an emphasis on rapid and more accurate laboratory testing for C. difficile would identify patients with the disease more quickly and allow for their segregation in order to prevent infection outbreaks while expediting treatment.

The research team found that patients with samples positive for the toxin associated with
C. difficile were twice as likely to die within 30 days and that the tests which detect the presence of the toxin are the most reliable indicators of who has the bug and who is most capable of transmitting the infection.

Through a number of key initiatives, including an ongoing program of deep cleaning hospitals and maintaining cleaning staffing levels, C. difficile cases at UK hospitals have decreased since their peak in 2007-08.

“Ontario hospitals have a significant problem with hospital acquired infections as a result of over-crowding and consistent cutbacks to hospital cleaning budgets. It would be responsible of the provincial government to invest in improving both the speed and accuracy of testing for C. difficile to contain outbreaks and reduce infection rates,” says Hurley.

The reference link to the research study is as follows:
The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70200-7

For more information please contact:
Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE 416-884-0770

Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications

Announcement of regulation allowing transfer of hospital procedures to private clinics raises Ornge fiasco redux fears

MEDIA RELEASE August 21, 2013
TORONTO, ON –The deep summer announcement of a provincial regulation to shift hospital based services to private clinics raises many red flags, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

The Ontario Ministry of Health’s forays into privatization of hospitals (Brampton, Ottawa, North Bay), electronic health records and air ambulance services have been widely acknowledged as hugely expensive failures. In Quebec the government recently had to return work contracted to private clinics from hospitals, after discovering that the clinics were charging “facility fees”.

The transfers of hospital services to stand alone facilities in the U.S. were halted by Congress after numerous fatalities.

“ Private clinics skim the easiest procedures from hospitals, leaving public hospitals with the most complex and expensive cases. The efficiency of the private clinic delivery model is a mirage. Pulling services from hospitals also threatens their ongoing viability- one of the reasons the US Congress imposed a ban on such transfers“ says Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

“ We are very concerned because there have been many fatalities in stand-alone clinics in the United States. Stand-alone facilities are not equipped to deal with life-threatening medical emergencies. Worse, cuts to Ontario’s ambulance services mean that we may not be able to move patients back to hospital in time if they require emergency care. We are deeply concerned because the Liberal government’s stand on for-profit delivery of health services is so ambiguous “says Hurley.

“ The Ornge and P3 hospital debacles showed the huge difficulty the media and the public have in getting any information about cost. Private organizations operate behind a wall of secrecy. Earlier this year the government refused to report private clinics that failed inspection. We ask the government to shelve this regulation and plans to move services from hospitals until these concerns can be fully debated and resolved” says Hurley.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley, President,
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE

Doug Allan, CUPE Research
Canada's Top Ten pension funds help drive national prosperity, landmark study finds
TORONTO, June 6, 2013 /CNW/ - Canada's ten largest public pension funds, dubbed "the Top Ten," provide Canadians with one of the strongest retirement income systems in the world and also contribute significantly to national prosperity, a new study concludes.

The landmark study commissioned by several members of the Top Ten and conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) provides, for the first time, data on the aggregate impact of these global organizations. The study is an in-depth examination of the economic impact of these pension funds to the end of fiscal 2011. The study concludes the Top Ten are a Canadian success story on the world stage… read full article
“Why are you attacking health care workers?”
April 10, 2013
North Bay, Sudbury nurses and health care staff ask at MPP Fedeli
rally tomorrow

North Bay, ON — Nurses and other health care workers whose jobs are too vital to allow them the right to strike will remind Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli at a rally tomorrow (Thursday, April 11) that they are dedicated caregivers who deserve a fair and balanced process to resolve contract disputes.

“Health care arbitration has been less generous over the last 20 years than settlements bargained
in the private or public sector and claims otherwise are not true. But both the Liberals and the Conservatives are targeting the health care arbitration system for changes that will give employers the upper hand. What on earth have the women who slave to keep the health care system working done to deserve this?” says Henri Giroux a long-term care worker and the president of the North Bay and District CUPE Council\Labour.
“Health care arbitration covers far more staff — about 250,000 them, 85% women — than municipal services like police and firefighters. Generous arbitration outcomes for police and fire, which have been highlighted by Mr. Fedeli, can be tracked back to a freely negotiated settlement between the Ontario government and the provincial police several years ago. Lumping health care outcomes with police and fire is outrageous” says Mr. Giroux.
Last November, Giroux, health care workers and other constituents met with MPP Fedeli. They reviewed with him Ontario Ministry of Labour data showing that far from being exorbitant, in the hospital and long-term care sector, arbitrated settlements are more modest than freely negotiated settlements.
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) president Michael Hurley, a speaker at the rally tomorrow says, “the provincial government must resist changes to health care arbitration that would tip the balance in contract arbitration in favour of employers. If workers do not have confidence in the arbitration system because they believe it to be biased they will not use it and the very stability that arbitration is meant to provide will be lost. During the first term of the Harris government, both SEIU and CUPE moved towards illegal hospital strikes rather than submit to a corrupted arbitration system. The Harris government withdrew its changes to restore stability.”
Throughout decades-long service restructuring and downsizing, Ontario’s health sector workers are extremely dedicated and productive, says Hurley. “The result is that Ontario’s hospitals and long-term care homes are the most cost-effective in Canada. Is picking a fight with these health care workers — when their wage settlements have been responsible — and creating upheaval in essential health services really a top legislative priority for the Liberals and Conservatives? I would hope not.”
Thursday’s rally at Fedeli’s constituency office, 165 Main Street East, North Bay, begins at 11:30 a.m.

For more information, please contact:

Henri Giroux, President North Bay and District CUPE Council\Labour
(705) 471-7746

Michael Hurley, President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions
(416) 884-0770

Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications
(416) 559-9300
Excessive corporate rights in Canada-EU trade deal are unacceptable to broad section of European, Canadian and Quebec society
February 5 2013
Brussels, Ottawa and Montreal – Labour, environmental, Indigenous, women’s, academic, health sector and fair trade organizations from Europe, Canada and Quebec representing more than 65 million people are demanding that Canada and the EU stop negotiating an excessive and controversial investor rights chapter in the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The groups issued a joint statement today ahead of a two-day meeting in Ottawa between European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast, where the two hope to move the CETA negotiations forward if not to conclude an agreement.

“We will vigorously oppose any transatlantic agreement that compromises our democracies, human and Indigenous rights, and our right to protect our health and the planet,” says the transatlantic statement, endorsed by more than 70 organizations. “We urge the EU and Canadian governments to follow the lead of the Australian government by stopping the practice of including investor-state dispute settlement in their trade and investment agreements, and to open the door to a broad re-writing of trade and investment policy to balance out corporate interests against the greater public interest.”

Investor-state dispute settlement is a process found in many Canadian and European trade and investment agreements, including NAFTA and the hundreds of bilateral investment treaties that EU members states have signed with developing countries and with each other. The process allows a firm in one country to sue the government of the other country if the firm feels its investor rights have been violated. In a very real sense, these investment rules create a parallel legal system for multinational corporations and private investors, who are using them increasingly to challenge environmental, public health and other government policies, decisions, laws and measures that interfere in some way with the “right” to make a profit.

Recent high-profile cases include the $250-million NAFTA lawsuit threatened by Lone Pine Resources against Quebec’s ban on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), a €3.7-billion claim by Swedish Energy firm Vattenfall against Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power, ExxonMobil and Murphy Oil’s successful case against provincial profit-sharing rules on offshore oil development, and U.S.-based Renco Group’s $800-million claim against a Peruvian requirement to clean up the extreme pollution caused by its smelter in La Oroya.

“Qualitative research suggests that the treaties are not a decisive factor in whether investors go abroad... Based on a lack of economic benefits, and evidence that investment treaties do pose risks to environmental measures, a Sustainability Impact Assessment of CETA urged the European Union not to include [investor-state dispute settlement] in the agreement. Like the European Parliament, this independent report for the European Commission suggested a state-to-state dispute process is more appropriate in the EU-Canada context,” says the joint statement issued today by transatlantic civil society groups.

The Australian government decided in 2011 it would stop including these rights and investor-state dispute settlement in its trade and investment agreements. Many countries, including South Africa and India, are rethinking their investment treaties because of the way corporations and law firms have abused them to undermine democracy and public policies globally. Several Latin American countries are cancelling their investment treaties for the same reason.

In 1998, European and Canadian opposition to investor-state dispute settlement put an end to the planned Multilateral Investment Agreement, which would have extended these extreme investor protections to the entire OECD region. In the same spirit and in light of the rebirth of this failed corporate project in the Canada-EU trade deal, the European, Canadian and Quebec groups listed below “demand that the EU and Canada cease negotiating investor rights and an investor-state dispute settlement process into the CETA.”

To read the full statement: http://tradejustice.ca

Endorsed in Europe: 11.11.11 (Belgium), AITEC (France), ACV-CSC (Belgium), Attac Austria (Austria), Attac-France (France), Attac Liège (Belgium), ATTAC VLAANDEREN (Belgium), Both Ends (Netherlands), Center for Research and Documentation Chile-Latin America (Germany), CFTC, Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens (France), CNCD – 11.11.11 (Belgium), Corporate Europe Observatory (Belgium), Ecologistas en Aciòn (Spain), European Federation of Public Services Unions (EPSU), European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Fairwatch (Italy), Food & Water Europe, Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII – Germany), FTM-CGT (France), Global Social Justice (Belgium), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Centre (Nigeria), PowerShift (Germany), Stichting Vrijschrift (Netherlands), SOMO (Netherlands), Transnational Institute (Netherlands), World Economy, Ecology & Development (Germany), Zukunftskonvent (Germany)

Endorsed in Canada: Canadian Association of University Teachers, Canadian Auto Workers, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-FCEE), Canadian Health Coalition, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Common Frontiers, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), Council of Canadians, Greenpeace Canada, Hupacasath First Nation, National Farmers Union, National Union of Public and General Employees, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, Polaris Institute, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Sierra Club Canada, (Tsalalh) Seton Lake Indian Band, Trade Justice Network, United Steelworkers

Endorsed in Quebec: Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale (RQIC), Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS), Alternatives, Association canadienne des avocats du mouvement syndical (ACAMS-CALL), Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI), Attac-Québec, Centrale des Syndicats démocratiques (CSD), Centrale des Syndicats du Québec (CSQ), Confédération des Syndicats nationaux (CSN), Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain (CCMM-CSN), Eau Secours!, Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ), Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), Ligue des droits et libertés, Mouvement d’éducation populaire et d’action communautaire du Québec (MÉPACQ), Réseau québécois des groupes écologistes (RQGE), Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique section Québec (SCFP-Québec), Syndicat de professionnelles et professionnels du gouvernement du Québec (SPGQ), Union des consommateurs


For more information: http://tradejustice.ca

Bruno Ciccaglione, Seattle to Brussels network: bruno.ciccaglione@alice.it
Pierre-Yves Serinet, Réseau québécois sur l'intégration continentale (RQIC): +1 (514) 276-1075; rqic@ciso.qc.ca
Stuart Trew, Trade Justice Network: +1 (647) 222-9782; TJN.RCJ@gmail.com
Ontario LTC residents get one hour less care a day than rest of Canada
Health minister must act to increase personal care hours
March 28 2013

Families, long-term care staff at Queen’s Park rally today

TORONTO, ON – Following this month’s tragic homicide of a senior in a Toronto long-term care home, and “a decade-long string of unmet promises by successive Ontario health ministers to do better and make improvements to long-term care (LTC), the time to act to increase care hours and keep residents safer is now,” says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
For more than 10 years, CUPE/OCHU have called on the provincial government to increase personal care and staffing supports, for the nearly 80,000 long-term care residents.
Recent Statistics Canada data indicates that Ontario homes for the aged fall well short of staffing for homes for the aged in other provinces. On average, facilities for the elderly in Ontario provide almost one hour less care for each resident everyday compared with the Canada-wide level. That means there is 22.5 per cent more care Canada-wide than in Ontario where funding is $28.30 less per resident per day than the national average.
Hurley will be among several invited guest speakers at a Queen’s Park rally today organized by the Parent family whose 85-year-old mother – a resident in a Peterborough nursing home – was attacked by another resident this February and is now in a wheelchair. The Parents’ believe that understaffing at the facility was a contributing factor in the attack on their mother.
“Long-term care workers are doing all they can to provide quality care, to treat residents with dignity and keep them safe. But chronic under-staffing and a lack of a provincial staffing standard, is leaving people vulnerable. Many incidents of resident-on-resident violence are preventable,” says Hurley.
A recent W5 investigation found that resident-on-resident violence in nursing homes is prevalent and on the rise across Ontario and the rest of Canada. It’s estimated that up to 75 per cent of residents have behavioral problems or are cognitively impaired.
In 2005 a coroner's jury into the 2001 death of two residents at Casa Verde (a Toronto nursing home) who were killed by another resident made 85 recommendations – several of them focused on sweeping changes to improve resident safety including increasing staffing and care levels and locked units for residents with dementia. Few of the recommendations have been acted on.
“While we have no doubt, Ontario’s health minister takes her responsibility as the minister responsible for care in long-term care homes extremely seriously the lack of action to make homes safer is extremely worrisome,” says Hurley.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley
President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE) 416-884-0770

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications

What have Ontario seniors done to earn the wrath of the Ontario government?
January 18, 2013

TORONTO, ON – “While talking a good line” on providing care for Ontario’s legion of growing seniors, Ontario’s health minister “continues to short-change health care access for older Ontarians and fudge the facts of her government’s go-forward plan to replace universal and comprehensive hospital services and long-term care with limited home care supports,” charges Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario president Fred Hahn in response to a series of recent Liberal government announcements.

“Platitudes from the health minister and a couple of hours a week of home care aren’t going to provide a senior with multiple chronic conditions and little mobility with the 24-hour care and the quality of life they deserve,” says Hahn.

Last month’s Ontario auditor’s report tells the real story about seniors’ care. He found that 15 per cent of the nearly 20,000 people waiting for a long-term care (LTC) bed die while on the wait list for a bed. According to the auditor, since 2004/05 the number of people waiting for a bed has increased 85 per cent, despite stricter eligibility requirements coming into force in 2010. Over the same period the number of LTC beds in Ontario has increased by just 3 per cent.

Another 10,000 Ontarians are waiting for care at home. But funding for home care - home support and nursing - are set at levels “far too low to meet the existing waiting lists and new need from hospital offloading of more complex patients,” says Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU). Already Ontario has among the lowest per person health care funding in Canada. Over the next few years when Ontario’s population is ageing at unprecedented rate, the Liberals intend to cut billions of dollars more from health services.

What’s clear, Hurley says, is that hospital beds providing services to seniors in hospital are aggressively being cut across Ontario. Also being cut, are in-hospital physiotherapy and speech therapy programs, many serving seniors, which are being privatized in the community. “We also have a means-tested drug plan for seniors coming. It begs the question what have Ontario seniors done to earn the wrath of the Ontario government?” Asks Hurley.

As part of a “new” seniors’ health strategy, the government is looking at means-tested co-payments for the provision of home care and community support services.

Hahn says that “there appears a willful blindness on the part of the health minister, her government and those charged with developing a plan for seniors’ care, that verges on disrespect for the people who have built this province. What would be genuine and respectful is, the new Liberal premier stopping the billions of dollars in health service cost-cutting at the expense of care for seniors.”

For more information please contact:
Fred Hahn
President, CUPE Ontario

Michael Hurley President,
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications
St. Joe’s health care workers urge chief coroner attending Hamilton dinner today for inquest into beating death of psychiatric patient
January 15 2013
HAMILTON, ON – Ontario’s chief coroner Dr. Andrew McCallum is the guest speaker at a Hamilton Medical-Legal Society fund raising dinner today, January 15 where he will focus on inquest and death review leading to changes. While St. Joseph’s health care workers are not attending the event tonight, they are hopeful Dr. McCallum will revisit initiating an inquest into the tragic May 2012 beating death of Michael Brewer, a forensic psychiatric patient at the hands of another patient at the facility.

Following Brewer’s death the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 786 representing 350 registered practical nurses and nearly 700 other support staff at St. Joe’s, wrote Dr. McCallum requesting that the coroner’s office immediately initiate an inquest similar to what occurs following a death in a corrections facility. OCHU/CUPE drew attention to workplace conditions, specifically the lack of security, understaffing and overcrowding that may be contributing factors in this death.

In an officious response, the regional supervising coroner for the Hamilton region wrote that a decision regarding the necessity of a “discretionary inquest into the circumstances of this death will be made at the completion of the investigation and, should an inquest be called, it cannot proceed until criminal matters are complete and the appeal process is finished.”

While the hospital administration has improved some aspects of security, little has changed, says CUPE 786 president Domenic DiPasquale.

“It was very disappointing to receive a response from the coroner’s office that an inquest in this case was discretionary and that it would not happen until all the legal proceedings were done. That could take years. In the meantime little is done to prevent a similar incidence from happening again,” says DiPasquale, who points out that several years ago a nurse was severely beaten by a patient and the hospital continues to report monthly first aid incidents involving nurses.

Although Dr. McCallum is moving on from the coroner’s office to head up Ontario’s scandal-plagued air ambulance service, DiPasquale says, “in light of the topic of his speech tonight,
we think his office should reconsider our request for an inquest.”

Tonight’s Hamilton Medical-Legal Society dinner begins at 7 p.m. at Spencer’s at the Waterfront, 1340 Lakeshore Road, Burlington.

For more information please contact:

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications

Message to Ontario’s health minister: “It’s not OK” to cut 18,500 hospital beds

Graveyards full of dead patients the result of province’s decade-long experiment with bed closures
February 27, 2013
TORONTO, ON — Ontario’s pioneering experiment to change health care delivery — that includes the closing of 18,500 beds — is not “ok” and not a health policy that’s in the best interest of patient safety because there aren’t enough services in the home and community care sector to provide the extensive medical support many patients need, says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

Since the mid-90s 18,500 hospital beds have been cut in Ontario. Ontario’s hospital bed occupancy rate stands at 97.9 per cent — the highest among industrialized countries.

“This government’s fixation with cutting hospital beds and services is disproportionately affecting the elderly. Thousands of acutely ill seniors are pushed out hospital prematurely every year into a home and community care system where services simply don’t exist. Surgeries are cancelled, emergency rooms overflow, community residents are prevented from accessing long term care, and precious ambulance resources are lost waiting to discharge patients to overflowing hospitals, sometimes leaving zero ambulances available to respond to 911 calls. It is disingenuous of the minister to suggest that there is enough care available in the community to adequately address the care needs of the thousands of patients she wants to push out of hospitals,” says Hurley.

Hospital over capacity or overcrowding is linked to outbreaks of hospital-acquired infections and a variety of medical errors. In Ontario approximately 5,000 people die each year as a result of hospital associated infections. Between a third and a half of these deaths are preventable. Despite other efforts, hospital acquired infection rates have not declined in Ontario. In countries like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom where hospital bed occupancy is 65 and 85 per cent respectively the rate of hospital acquired infections is lower than in Ontario.

“We should be doing the same, lowering bed occupancy, not closing more beds. There are graveyards full of patients, who are dying preventable deaths in Ontario because of the shift in health policy to close beds,” says Hurley.

Based on the health care platforms of the main Ontario political parties, all three parties endorsed decreased funding for acute care hospitals. Factoring in the increasing cost pressure from aging, population growth, and inflation, the province’s nominal increase in health care funding is a long way off the actual increased costs, costs that Ontario’s auditor pegs at 6-7 per cent per year.

“This means more bed and service cuts no matter who wins the next election,” says Hurley. “Despite the rhetoric of the health minister these aren’t simply bed cuts, they are cuts to patient care, care that is not being offset by a shift in services to the community or other institutions like non–profit nursing homes,” says Hurley.

In the face the health minister’s uncharacteristically candid declaration to media yesterday, that cutting hospital beds is “ok”, hospital staff who are members of CUPE will now consider more aggressive public campaigns to reverse the cuts, Hurley says. In the late spring OCHU will be releasing the findings of hotline campaign done in conjunction with the Ontario Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists (OSLA) which focused on elderly and vulnerable patients being pushed out of hospital.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley,
President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications

Municipalities themselves are the problem, not the arbitration system

Don’t make war on health care workers to deal with a handful of police and fire awards
February 14, 2013
TORONTO, ON – Hospital and long-term care workers urged Ontario’s Premier today to question the claims of municipalities that misrepresent arbitration outcomes and ignore the fact that the majority of municipal essential service contracts are freely negotiated.

“Municipalities freely negotiate over 90 per cent of their essential service contracts. Only a small number go to arbitration. The municipalities’ call for changes to arbitration rings hollow and should be resisted by the Premier,” said Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario.

Hurley called on Premier Kathleen Wynne not to make war on health care workers to satisfy a renewed push by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to bias the arbitration system in favour of employers.

CUPE represents over 70,000 health care workers who are deemed essential and do not have the right to strike. In place of that right, Ontario’s hundreds of thousands health care workers (85% of whom are women) have access to an independent arbitration process to resolve issues when bargaining reaches an impasse.

Far from being overly generous, wage settlements in the health care sector – whether freely negotiated or arbitrated – lag freely negotiated wage increases in the public and private sectors. OCHU and its 30,000 hospital sector members have freely negotiated contracts for the last four rounds of hospital central bargaining and not accessed arbitration.

“In the health sector both collective bargaining and arbitration are working well. Tampering with either should be avoided,” said Hurley, pointing to the recent turmoil in the education sector caused by provincial interference in collective bargaining.

With only a small percentage of municipal contract negotiations with police and fire decided at arbitration “we fear that the municipalities are using the province as the heavy in their negotiations with municipal emergency services. We strongly urge the Premier to deal with the municipalities and not undermine the rights of health care workers to independent arbitration,” Hurley said.

For more information please contact:
Michael Hurley President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) 416-884-0770
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications 416-559-9300
If three jumbo jets crash, killing 1153 people every week, would government act?
That’s how many patients die weekly due to the epidemic of medical errors

OTTAWA, ON - Research shows that 18 per cent of Canadian patients entering hospitals – 552,000 of them – experience harm, and between 56,000 and 63,000 (the equivalent of three jumbo jets crashing, killing all on board, every week) will die from a medical error or hospital-acquired infection, said the authors of a book that looks at the systemic causes of preventable hospital deaths, at an Ottawa media conference today. Medical errors include medication mistakes, misdiagnoses and unnecessary surgeries, as well as hospital-acquired infections.

William Charney, the editor of Epidemic of Medical Errors and Hospital-Acquired Infections and an occupational health specialist for 30 years (ten as director of environmental health at the Department of Public Health in San Francisco, and five at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal) said the research provided in the book challenges governments to act.

“Governments need to have the political will to tackle this epidemic and to change the culture of the medical establishment to one of openness and accountability to prevent needless deaths. A motive of cost-cutting in the hospital sector is fueling errors. This includes an obsession with cost-cutting through understaffing nurses and cleaners. But they have it backwards. Putting money upfront,” said Charney, “will not only prevent errors and needless deaths, it will save health care dollars, because hospital stays will be shorter and liability costs will go down.”

Like in the United States (U.S.), medical errors – referred to as adverse events in the hospital system – are under-reported in Canada, said Charney. Medical errors and adverse events are even higher in the community sector and in private independent clinics. The U.S. numbers are large with 788,000 attributed to medical error. U.S. patients at independent for-profit facilities are four times more likely to suffer adverse events than those in not-for-profit hospitals.

The book probes the systemic causes of preventable hospital deaths including unsafe patient volumes, inadequate staffing levels, shift work, healthcare working conditions, lack of accountability, legal issues that conflict with patient safety issues, and staff training.

The Ottawa media conference is the first in a 15-community tour that includes Toronto, Montreal, Thunder Bay and Windsor and culminates with a June 4 conference at the Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W., in Toronto.

“The personal suffering this results in is staggering. But preventable medical errors are going to get worse if the Ontario government cuts hospital budgets and thousands more beds as planned. Heightened patient volumes, unsafe bed occupancy rates and reduced cleaning have resulted in an environment that puts patients at risk,” says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) who has contributed a chapter to the book.

This fall, OCHU will push to have legislation requiring mandatory reporting of medical errors and hospital-acquired infections introduced at Queen’s Park.

Epidemic of Medical Errors and Hospital-Acquired Infections is published by Taylor & Francis, a leading international academic publisher (http://www.taylorandfrancisgroup.com/).

To find out more about the June 4 conference go to: http://www.ochu.on.ca/conferences_conventions.html

For more information please contact:
Stella Yeadon
Communications – Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE/OCHU) 416-559-9300

Ontario Liberal’s Victorian approach to deficit cutting: keep the rich fed to bursting, let the poor starve

MARCH 27, 2012
TORONTO, ON –Despite platitudes that they would spare families in tough times and not cut the deficit on the backs of children, by freezing social assistance rates and deferring an increase to the Ontario Child Benefit for a million children, the Ontario Liberals are doing exactly that.

In presenting a budget that cuts funding for public services, throws more Ontarians out of work and grows inequality by freezing social assistance rates “this Liberal government is continuing the escalating attack on the poor which began in earnest in 1995 when the Mike Harris Conservatives cut social assistance rates by over 20 per cent,” said Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE (OCHU).

The Liberal freeze to social assistance - which is effectively a 3 per cent cut to benefits at a time when food prices increased 4.1 per cent last month - is on top of the elimination of the special diet allowance for people on social assistance with chronic medical conditions, cut by the Liberals in last year’s budget.

“While the Liberals talk piously about lifting people out of poverty, the reality of their policies is that Ontario social assistance rates “are below subsistence levels, barely covering shelter costs. People on social assistance – half of whom are disabled and the majority who are women and children- are seriously malnourished because rates do not allow for adequate food supplies for a week, let alone a healthy diet for a month. These policies will cost us all in the future. People’s health is adversely affected and the long-term health system costs are tremendous.”

For more than two decades, successive governments have enacted budgets and policies that benefit the wealthy. In that time, the richest Ontarians have doubled their incomes, while the incomes of middle-class Ontarians have not changed at all and poor Ontarians have lost over 20 per cent of their incomes. Of all the growth in incomes since 1980, over one third has gone to just the richest 1 per cent. Yet Ontario’s richest are now taxed at half the rate they were three decades ago.

“This has perpetuated the already grossly unequal distribution of wealth. There is something fundamentally wrong, when, as in Victorian times, the poor starve social while the rich are fed to bursting,” said Hurley. “This budget should be a wake-up call for activists who have waited patiently for the Liberals to make good on their promise to fight poverty.”

Over the next few months OCHU will be working with other healthcare and poverty organizations to step up the fight to advocate with the poor. “All of us have a responsibility to act“ Hurley said.

For more information please contact:
Michael Hurley
President OCHU
(416) 884-0770

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications
(416) 559-9300

Will 120,000 jobs to be cut from the broader public sector?

McGuinty has a choice to make: support a jobs strategy or a job killing strategy

TORONTO, Ont. – Ontario official rate of unemployment is 8.1% -- well above the national average. “But instead of developing a jobs strategy, the Dalton McGuinty government may be preparing a job killing strategy if the Liberals accept the Drummond Commission cost-cutting advice, more than 120,000 jobs will be cut from the broader public sector,” says Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
Two Nobel prize-winning economists - Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz argue that when economic recovery is shaky government program cuts are dangerous.
“Krugman and Stiglitz have a completely different perspective on cost-cutting, austerity and the role of government in economic recovery than Don Drummond,” says Hurley. “Given their earned reputations for forecasting and analysis, these warning should concern our provincial government.”

Ontario spends less on programs (on average) than other Canadian provinces. Should McGuinty implement Drummond’s austerity plan, by 2017/18, Ontario’s program spending per person would be 16.2 per cent lower in real dollars than it was in 2010/11.

Stiglitz one of the most cited and respected economists in the world said at a Toronto Forum for Global Cities last fall that government austerity measures and cuts to program spending as Drummond is proposing are an economic ‘suicide pact’ that will dampen growth.

“Following Drummond’s advice to cut government programs means tens of thousands of Ontarian’s will lose their jobs. 10,000 in education, 30,000 in health care and up to 120,000 across the broader public sector. These job losses will doom Ontario’s tenuous economic recovery. The Premier needs to give Ontario a fighting chance at economic recovery and make creating and sustaining employment the top priority rather than an exclusive focus on the deficit,” Hurley says.

Other respected Ontario economists are challenging Drummond’s austerity plan for Ontario. They argue that recent experience in Europe has shown that the more governments cut public spending, the more Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrunk and the worse their debt ratio became.

Drummond’s plan, say economists Hugh Mackenzie and Jim Stanford would result in a $10-18 billion loss to Ontario’s GDP over four years and drag Ontario into negative GDP territory. Part of their economic advice is that the province should avoid spending cuts and expand public services to create jobs.

“Do the Liberals believe that the province is over-spending on public services like health care, but that billions in tax cuts to business and the wealthy are fine? Ontario has a revenue problem, not a spending problem. We spend $250 less per citizen than any other province does on public hospitals, for example,” Hurley says.

Ontario delivers the most effective hospital service in Canada, measured by cost, beds, staff and lengths of stay. “Yet Drummond’s report suggests that 12,000 of Ontario’s hospital beds can be eliminated along with the staff who support them. For many communities this will be the end of their community hospital and a wind-up for what is now their town’s largest employer. Care will be irreversibly damaged. So will the local and provincial economies,” says Hurley.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley
President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications
Health minister should listen to concerns, stop expansion of private clinics, scrap changes to legislation
October 10 2013
TORONTO, ON — Surgeries, procedures and other health care services now available at local hospitals will soon be hived-off into private, possibly for-profit clinics unless the Ontario Liberal government takes a sober second-look at the possible adverse consequences of cutting more services from hospitals, warns Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

“Instead of dismissing genuine concerns about unsafe practices and unwarranted extra patient fees at private surgery clinics, Ontario’s health minister should scrap changes aimed at expanding private clinics for services that are currently available in highly-regulated public hospitals,” says Hurley.

Because the regulatory changes to facilitate increasing involvement of private, out-of-hospital clinics do not require approval from the Ontario Legislature, the Liberal government is forging ahead with virtually no open discussion with Ontarians. The only opportunity afforded the public for comment is a little-known online feedback process. The deadline for comments is tomorrow October 11.

There are many reasons for the provincial health minister to scrap the proposed regulatory changes and stop the expansion of private clinics, says Hurley, among them, the dismal experiences with independent clinics of the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) and British Columbia.

The US Congress suspended Medicare funding to private clinics after numerous preventable deaths. In the UK the government pays private clinics more than they do public hospitals even though they cherry pick easier to treat patients, leaving those with higher medical needs to public hospitals. In April 2012, an audit of the private Cambie Clinic in British Columbia found close to $500,000 in illegal extra billing and $66,000 in double billing within a 30-day period.

Currently there are over 800 independent health facilities in Ontario. Although they receive public dollars, the majority are, for-profit operations and there is little or no public disclosure about how much provincial funding they get.

OCHU filed several freedom of information (FOI) requests in the spring of 2012 pertaining to funding arrangements between the province and an independent clinic for the provision of cataract surgeries, associated capital costs, operating costs and fee payments since 2006. “The ministry of health is keeping this information secret. Despite repeated attempts and appeals on our part to access the information, the ministry of health has refused to disclose how much public funding has been allocated to the clinic. Ontarians have a right to know how public dollars are spent,” says Hurley.

For more information, please contact:

Henri Giroux, President North Bay and District CUPE Council\Labour
(705) 471-7746

Michael Hurley, President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions
(416) 884-0770

Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications
(416) 559-9300
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Archive News Releases

Past News Releases

Will McGuinty outdo Harris?

Deep hospital cuts and a Harris-like commission to do the cutting
February 27, 2012
TORONTO, ON –The recent cost-cutting report of the Drummond Commission which offers many failed ideas from the Mike Harris era including shrinking, cutting and merging hospitals and other health services through a restructuring commission, poses an enormous credibility challenge for the Premier if the advice is followed, says Michael Hurley the Ontario president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

Should the Liberals heed privatization commissioner Don Drummond and cut health funding considerably until 2017-18, about $4 billion would be carved out of health spending increases over the first three years alone.

“The funding cuts that Drummond is pushing will be much deeper and last longer than the Harris era. It begs the question, ‘can Dalton McGuinty be more destructive than Mike Harris’?” Asks Hurley.

While proposing deep cuts to health funding, Drummond also asserts that the health system be put through another torturous round of restructuring. To shepherd this downsizing, he proposes a government commission similar to the Harris Health Services Restructuring Commission (HSRC) which was given statutory powers from 1996 to 2000 to expedite hospital mergers, closures and program cuts. As opposition leader Dalton McGuinty railed against the Harris commission for closing hospitals, cutting nurses and distancing the Harris government from the unpopular policies.

“Everyone but Drummond seems to have regretted the expensive and destructive restructuring of health care by the HSRC, which wound up spending 4 billion dollars to achieve 1 billion dollars in savings. The Harris-style health service restructuring being argued for by Drummond will compromise patient care. An arms length commission is just a political device for the government to dodge responsibility for deep cuts to health services,” Hurley says.

Excerpts from Ontario Hansard directed at the then health minister and Harris the Premier show McGuinty vehemently opposing HSRC hospital cuts. On February 20, 1997 McGuinty says: “Minister, it's your hospital cuts that are the problem. Will you stop cutting dollars from Ontario hospitals?”

On March 6, 1997, McGuinty says: “Today the Premier closed 11 hospitals in Metropolitan Toronto and 14 emergency departments…….Premier, I understand this legal fiction that somehow there's a commission out there over which you have no control, but the people of this province understand that when it comes to any locked door of any hospital in this province, it will be your fingerprints on that door, nobody else's.”

OCHU represents over 30,000 hospital workers and is the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario.

For more information please contact:
Michael Hurley
President, OCHU
(416) 884-0770

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications
(416) 559-9300

Ochu requests an inquest into the beating death of Michael Brewer

June 4, 2012 - A letter to Chief Coroner for Ontario
Dear Dr. McCallum,
We are writing to call for an inquest into the beating death of Michael Brewer, 30, at
St. Joseph’s Healthcare hospital in Hamilton on Wednesday May 23, 2012. Police report Mr. Brewer died as a result of injuries from blunt force trauma. Tyler Michael Valcheff, 32, is charged with second degree murder. No weapon was involved in the death.
We believe that it is in the public interest that there be a coroner’s inquest to investigate the underlying systemic conditions at St. Joseph’s – including safety and risk factors...read full letter

Drummond report gives Liberals cover they need to move away from public health care

TORONTO, ON – Today’s release of the Don Drummond report on the review of Ontario’s public services is chapter one in a move to privatize Ontario’s health care system, charges Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

By unbundling medical procedures currently available through public hospitals into a patchwork of private clinics and pushing patients into a home care system where 10,000 Ontarians are already waiting for supports, the Liberals are setting the stage for health care privatization chapter two down the road.

Earlier this winter, Drummond alluded to a two phase health care reform process in an interview with CBC’s The House. “At some point…you have to bring in some revenues…so there has to be a second chapter," he said. In one interview Drummond calls the Canada Health Act “irrelevant”. Several Drummond-authored reports clearly show he is a proponent of greater private sector involvement in health care, user fees and even imposing a tax on Ontario's sickest-generally seniors and the poor.

The private clinics will be funded on a fee-for-service basis, a model that in the United Kingdom has opened the door to privatization and increased costs by introducing new administrative costs. In Ontario, fee-for-service compensation for ophthalmologists has already driven their average earnings to over $600,000. Some earn more than $1.1 million.

Weighing down public health care with extra administrative costs and greed is not good public policy. “Working people can’t afford it. In the meantime the doctors themselves will reap huge financial rewards.While the health minister argues that for now these clinics will be set up as not-for-profit there is the potential for a mega-multinational health care outfit to buy them,” Hurley adds.

Ontario’s air ambulance company ORNGE – was set up by the Liberals as a not-for-profit. Even within the not-for-profit framework ORNGE principals found ways to slip in the profit motive. “They gamed the system for millions of dollars of public funds. It appears as though the Liberals are willfully blind to the lessons from the ORNGE fiasco. They are playing with fire,” says Hurley.

Ontario hospitals are considered the most efficient in the country and among the best in patient outcomes. While hospitals are far from perfect, says Hurley, there are long-established oversight and accountability measures both in terms of care standards and financial controls.

“It’s hard to imagine why our health minister thinks dialysis clinics and other procedures should be done in mobile trailers and shopping malls. Often patients have complex conditions that require a full range of specialized supports which are now available to them in our public hospitals. That will change drastically under this private clinic model,” says Hurley.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley
President, OCHU

Stella Yeadon
OCHU/CUPE Communications
Free-trade agreement between the European Union and Canada: CORPORATIONS MUST NOT MAKE THE LAW
October 2011
We, the undersigned unions and civil society organizations, ask our political leaders to stop immediately the current negotiations for a free-trade agreement between the European Union and Canada.
This agreement, called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), would encourage the privatization of the public sector, weaken and prevent social, health and environmental regulations, and protect even more investors' rights at the expense of democratic rights.
While the ninth negotiating session is now concluded in order to sign the CETA by early 2012, our organizations say NO to this agreement which has been negotiated for the sole benefit of transnational corporations, at the expense of people's rights and of the protection of the environment.
This agreement is being negotiated in the greatest secrecy, without hearing from civil society except for business leaders
Neither the European Union nor Canada has ever informed their populations of what is really at stake in these negotiations. Requests and offers from each party have never been discussed nor revealed to the public. These negotiations are thus clearly a total denial of democracy.
This agreement brings back to life the MAI (Multinational Agreement on Investment) and reinforces the Chapter 11 of NAFTA by broadening its reach
The EU-Canada agreement will incorporate an international mechanism of “investment protection” directly inspired by the highly controversial Chapter 11 of the NAFTA (North American Free-trade Agreement) and the MAI (Multinational Agreement on Investment), secretly negotiated in 1998 at the OECD, and rejected thanks to public mobilization.
An investor-to-state dispute settlement process in CETA would allow foreign investors to directly sue governments or local authorities in Europe, and federal, provincial or municipal governments in Canada, if regulations were to threaten their anticipated profits. Thus through international private courts, a corporation could challenge and abrogate regulations democratically voted and implemented by elected governments.
Such a mechanism seriously threatens the power of elected authorities to regulate and our democratic rights, enabling transnational corporations to sue states if they consider some of their laws as a threat whereas they have in fact been enacted to protect the public interest. It could also discourage states from taking such measures in the first place, knowing they could be sued through this dispute resolution mechanism.
This agreement will open public markets in Canada at every level of the government
EU negotiators are demanding a near total opening of public markets in Canada. They have asked for a greater opening which will force numerous local authorities at the federal, provincial and municipal levels to open government procurement contracts above a given financial level to bids from European transnational corporations. Some very strict rules will prevent the use of public
markets – that is to say taxpayers' money – as a local development tool favoring local businesses, jobs and products, or the adoption of high environmental and social standards.
This opening, which again favors more private involvement and privatization of services, is all the more unacceptable in that it has been negotiated in a context of a loss of expertise and democratic ethics regarding public markets, which is currently at the heart of a great crisis in Quebec.
This agreement encourages public services liberalization through the “negative list” approach
Under the negative list approach adopted in the CETA negotiations, states, provinces and territories are asked to include only these sectors they wish to exclude from liberalization commitments. Under these conditions, any sector not specifically excluded is therefore recognized as a candidate for privatization. Through this process of negotiations using the “negative list,” any sector which is not mentioned on the list is therefore covered by the agreement, including those which could have been forgotten or even those which did not exist at the time of the agreement. In other words, the EU and Canada are opening the way to a totally uncontrolled liberalization and privatization of services.
Furthermore, neither the EU nor Canada plans to make this list of service sectors public. This is a totally unacceptable lack of transparency.
This agreement would greatly harm the regulatory powers of state, provincial, municipal and local authorities
The agreement could lead governments to self-censorship in terms of regulations in the social or environmental areas. This is because of the privileges granted to investors who could sue governments through international courts if they thought such regulations were an obstacle to trade or an obligation to get results, or if they could be considered as an expropriation. Moreover, in the case of the privatization of a public service (for example water management) it would be almost impossible for local governments to roll back liberalization policies and to re-municipalize such services for the well-being of the population.
This agreement seeks to weaken social, environmental and health regulations
The Canadian government considers that European standards are too complex and that the precautionary principle is a protectionist measure. Environmental and health regulations implemented by the European Union are thus in the firing line in the CETA negotiations.
Under pressure from transnational oil extraction companies, Canadian negotiators have taken a particularly aggressive line on the tar sands issue, one of the most polluting oil extraction processes known and a heavy contributor to global warming. They want the EU to lift the current obstacles keeping oil derived from Canadian tar sands out of Europe and are strongly lobbying against the European Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), thereby paralyzing any effort against climate change. With the CETA, oil companies could exploit tar sands in Canada as much as they want and sell those highly polluting fuels without any restrictions!
The same logic applies to regulations concerning use of hormones in livestock production and the REACH directive (strict regulation of chemical products) that Canada is explicitly trying to weaken.
Generally speaking, from now on any environmental, health or social measure will be threatened by a possible lawsuit filed by a corporation previously established in the country. This is all the more
pernicious since this agreement clearly aims at placing in competition social, environmental and health rules in Canada and in European countries. The predictable result is to force standards downwards with no possible turning back. European workers' rights that are more protective than those of Canada, which has refused to sign numerous ILO conventions, will be the first to suffer. On the other hand, European transnational corporations will be free to make a grab for the numerous still public services in Canada.
This agreement would reinforce intellectual property rights (IPR) at the expense of food sovereignty and the right to health
The European Union is asking the Canadian government to comply with European intellectual property norms which allow for a longer period of patent protection on drugs, food and other products. This would strengthen the intellectual property rights on seeds. Farmers could be prevented from storing, reusing and selling their seeds, and be placed more than ever under the dependency of agribusiness and biotechnology corporations.
This extension of intellectual property rights will also have far-reaching consequences on the right to health since such a provision will delay the marketing of generic drugs and would therefore make the cost of medicines far higher. This price increase will go hand in hand with the opening up of public markets in the health sector to European investors who are much more interested in their own financial health than in that of Canadian citizens. Moreover, measures negotiated through the NAFTA to protect the Canadian health system will be greatly weakened.
This agreement will jeopardize cultural diversity
For the moment, the cultural sector has not been specifically excluded and is thus fully covered by the agreement, despite the fact that both the EU and Canada have been strong supporters of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity, which aims at protecting the “cultural exception”. This is unacceptable and there is a serious threat that cultural diversity will not long resist an overall movement to commercialize all cultural expression and succumb to the domination of powerful cultural industries.
This agreement is democratically and socially regressive. It gives more tools to corporations to permanently blackmail states and local governments in Europe as well as federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada, threatening them with the possibility of taking legal action to condemn them if they ever think of regulating commercial activities coveted by these companies. This agreement will have tremendous consequences on the environment, making it easier for the productivist and extractivist system to perpetuate itself even though everyone knows it is a failure and a threat to humankind's future.
This agreement aims at establishing a free trade zone between the European Union and Canada which will force down environmental and health regulations and other social standards.
In view of these threats we, the undersigned unions and civil society organizations, declare:
• that what has already been refused collectively in the past cannot be agreed upon today;
• that trade agreements must promote cooperation and recognize common well-being, public interest, and human and environmental rights as more important than short-
term private interests which benefit only transnational corporations; • that democracy must not be compromised by such a trade agreement and that social and environmental regulations must be implemented by public, transparent and
democratic decisions.
We therefore ask Canadian federal and provincial representatives as well as representatives from the European Parliament and from the different national parliaments to refuse to ratify the CETA, and to act in total transparency regarding this agreement which is selling off our social rights, threatening environmental regulations and, more generally speaking, democracy itself.
Amis de la Terre - France Association Internationale des Techniciens, Experts et Chercheurs (Aitec-IPAM) - France Attac-France Attac-Spain Balkan Agency for Sustainable Development (BASD) - Bulgaria Collectif citoyen Ile-de-France « Non aux gaz et pétrole de schiste » - France Comité pour l'Annulation de la Dette du Tiers Monde (CADTM) - France Confédération paysanne - France Convergence des Collectifs de Défense et de Développement des Services Publics - France Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) - Europe Ecologistas en Acción - Spain Fédération Syndicale Unitaire (FSU) - France Fondation France Libertés - France France Amérique Latine (FAL) - France PowerShift - Germany Seattle to Brussels network (s2bnetwork) - Europe Résistance sociale - France Transnational Institute (TNI) – Netherlands Union Syndicale Solidaires - France War on Want – UK
Canada :
ACEF du Haut Saint-Laurent Alberta Federation of Labour Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS) AmiEs de la terre de l'Estrie AmiEs de la Terre de Québec (ATQ) Association canadienne des avocats du mouvement syndical Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI) Attac-Québec Canadian Auto Workers Canadian Environmental Law Association Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) Canadian Health Coalition Canadian Labour Congress Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Canadian Union of Public Employees Centre des femmes d'ici et d'ailleurs Centre des femmes italiennes de Montréal Centre de femmes l'ÉRIGE
Carrefour de participation, ressourcement et formation Centrale des Syndicats démocratiques (CSD) Centre justice et foi / Revue Relations Centre St-Pierre
Citizens in Action Montreal Collectif d'action populaire Richelieu-Yamaska Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain (CCMM-CSN) Coopérative de solidarité Les Éditions Vie Économique (EVE) Council of Canadians Eau Secours ! Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ) Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) Femmes en Mouvement, le Centre de femmes de la MRC de Bonaventure en Gaspésie Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) Illusion-Emploi de l'Estrie Indigenous Environmental Network Ligue des droits et libertés L'R des centres de femmes du Québec Mouvement d’éducation populaire et d’action communautaire du Québec (MÉPACQ) Maison des femmes des Bois-Francs Manitoba Federation of Labour National Union of Public and General Employees New Brunswick Federation of Labour Nova Scotia Federation of Labour Ontario Council of Hospital Unions Ontario Health Coalition Polaris Institute Presse-toi à gauche Public Service Alliance of Canada Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario Réseau québécois des groupes écologistes (RQGE) Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale (RQIC) Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Sierra Club Canada Sierra Youth Coalition Solidarité populaire Estrie Solidarité populaire Richelieu-Yamaska Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique – Québec / SCFP-Québec Syndicat canadien des communications, de l’énergie et du papier / Québec (SCEP-Québec) Syndicat de professionnelles et professionnels du gouvernement du Québec (SPGQ) Table régionale des centres de femmes de Montréal métropolitain-Laval (TRCFMML) Table ronde des organismes volontaires␣d'éducation populaire de l'Estrie (TROVEPE) Toronto Climate Campaign Toronto & York Region Labour Council Trade Justice Network Union des consommateurs Union paysanne United Steelworkers

The future of health care in Ontario: assembly-line private clinics, strip mall medicine, cash cow for doctors

TORONTO, ON - Tough talk by Ontario’s health minister on salary increases for the province’s 25,000 physicians and the creation of new private, assembly-line procedure and surgery clinics should be viewed with a “grain of salt and a lot of questions about the motives behind these clinics, who stands to benefit and the potential risks to the health of Ontarians,” says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
Racing to come out ahead of the February 15 release of a report reviewing public services’ cost-cutting, the health minister recently announced health service delivery changes that could include private birthing, knee and hip surgery and medical procedures clinics. The cost-cutting and massive re-design of health services is coming although over the last decade health care spending has shrunk as a percentage of total program spending, down from 46 per cent to 42 per cent while Ontario’s population increased. In the same period payments to physicians have increased by 88 per cent and drug costs doubled in the last 20 years.
Recently, during an Ottawa Citizen live broadcast session health minister Deb Matthews “is effusive about the convenience of private dialysis clinics operating in strip malls and assembly-line eye clinic operations,” says Hurley. “But we have - as I’m sure many Ontarians have - a lot of questions. Among them are; what’s the impact of moving the routine profitable procedures to clinics and leaving the complex surgeries to under-resourced public hospitals?”
In the current system, routine patient surgeries effectively subsidize costlier care for complex patients. Private clinics will skim the least complicated and low-cost patients but likely they will receive the same funding as hospitals that will treat the more complex, high-needs patients. Although clinics will, for now be prohibited from making profits, they will have ample opportunity to generate large revenues that can be used to "re-invest" as bonuses for doctors or the expansion of more private clinics.
“There is no doubt doctors stand to benefit from private clinics as the clinics become cash cows. Other parts of the health system will however be starved for resources under a new price-based funding model for services. Those most affected will be older Ontarians and children. They are the patients,” says Hurley “who the health minister has pegged as the 1 per cent consuming 34 per cent of the health care budget.”
Surgeries and procedures currently provided in Ontario’s public hospitals are highly regulated under an intense provincial oversight regime. Private, doctor-run clinics are self-regulating. Patient complaints are made to the independent college that polices doctors.
Minimizing potential risks to patient health under a private clinic model which are essentially self-regulated “is also a concern. We are preparing to fight this step into the past,” says Hurley.

For more information please contact:
Michael Hurley President OCHU/CUPE 416-884-0770
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications 416-559-9300

Canada Health Act is “completely irrelevant”, says McGuinty advisor

TORONTO, Ont. – Recent comments by Don Drummond, the $1500-a-day Bay St. banker hired by the Ontario Liberals to cut public service funding, that the Canada Health Act is "completely irrelevant" should give the Premier pause about who he's entrusted to protect universal health care," says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
While Drummond's latest musings on universal health care were made on CBC - The House a few days ago, Drummond has for years been a clear proponent of health care privatization, user fees and even imposing a tax on Ontario's sickest-generally, seniors and the poor. Last March, when the Liberals announced the commission to review public services that Drummond is heading, they were clear "the commission will not make recommendations that would increase taxes or lead to the privatization of health care or education."
But in a recent report to the C.D. Howe Institute, Drummond did just that, said Hurley. Drummond calls for "greater private sector involvement" in Ontario's health system through a "policy that encourages competition among providers."
"In other words," says Hurley, "let's expand corporate opportunities to profit from the public service of healthcare. And that's just the first chapter." In his appearance on The House, Drummond says: "at some point…you have to bring in some revenues…so there has
to be a second chapter."
If the Liberals follow Drummond's "re-design" for healthcare, the second chapter may well come in the form of user-fees, higher co-payments for drugs even for seniors receiving the Ontario Drug Benefit, and "sick taxes" charging patients at tax time for their usage
of health care.
These are all "reforms" that Drummond recommends in his C.D. Howe report, and in earlier reports for the Canadian Medical Association and TD Bank.
In 2004, the Ontario Liberals passed legislation called 'The Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act' reaffirming the commitment
of "the people of Ontario and their government," to the Canada Health Act. "It begs the question, are the McGuinty Liberals on the verge of breaking their promise to defend Medicare? Or are they going to distance themselves from Drummond's clear bias against universal health care?" Asks Hurley.
"As a private citizen, Mr. Drummond is entitled to his opinion that the Canada Health Act is irrelevant and that privatization is the solution to everything. That's what you get when you appoint a banker to develop public policy behind closed doors. However, he's
now on the government payroll. The Premier has legal responsibilities to guarantee universal and accessible healthcare to all Ontarians. If he follows Drummond's advice, the Premier will be in clear violation of those responsibilities and will cause irreparable harm to publicly delivered health care in Ontario," warned Hurley.

For more information:

Michael Hurley President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE
(416) 884-0770
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications
(416) 559-9300

$16,000 to $49,000 pay raises for Liberal caucus. Surely social assistance rates will also rise?

November 13, 2011: Media Release

Toronto, Ont. – On Remembrance Day the Ontario Liberal government quietly announced pay raises of between $16,000 and $49,000 for 29 MPP who will become parliamentary assistants to a slimmed down Ontario cabinet of just 22 members.

“ By this bold signal that the austerity agenda stops at Ontario’s borders, the Liberal caucus sends a message of hope to the poorest in Ontario,” said Michael Hurley, President of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU). “ These increases of between 14 per cent and 42 per cent would make such an enormous difference if they were also applied to people receiving social assistance and disability benefits.”

The 29 parliamentary assistants will receive an additional $16,667 on top of an MPP’s salary of $116,000. The whip will receive an additional $21,000 and cabinet members an additional $49,000, also on a base salary of $116,000. Only 1 of 53 Liberal MPPs will not receive a substantial increase, making this an unprecedented announcement in its scope. Effectively, 98 per cent of the Liberal caucus has been reclassified and given a pay raise.

“People on social assistance cannot remember the time they last ate until they were full. The health of tens of thousands of children is being seriously compromised through ongoing malnourishment. It is time to raise the rates of assistance and disability.” Hurley said.

Social assistance paid a single person $663 a month in 1994. In December 2011 it will pay $599. With a room in a major Ontario city costing $400 a month, single social assistance recipients have $6.60 a day for all necessities of life. 474,000 women, children and men receive Ontario Works benefits and 397,000 receive Ontario disability benefits.

For more information, please contact: Michael Hurley
President, OCHU/CUPE (416) 884-0770

Equal pay for Equal Work – Montfort Hospital doesn’t get it

Management at Montfort hospital refuses to pay CUPE 4721 members a fair wage, compared to other Ontario hospital workers. Working without a contract for months now, the workers at Montfort are speaking outabout their frustration and unfair treatment.
HEAR WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY: (in French only)

CUPE 4721 represents almost 850 members who work as orderlies, RPNs, technologists and technicians, respiratory therapists, clerks, porters, dietary aides, as well as housekeeping, sterilization and trades, pharmacy technicians and physiotherapy assistants. They help patients every day, and now they need your help.
Tell hospital management it’s time for fairness. Tell them workers should have equal pay for equal work!

Luc Trempe
Director, Human Resources
Email: luctrempe@montfort.on.ca
Telephone 613-746-4621 ext.2209
fax: 613-748-4932
cell: 613-266-4541

Hélène Hamilton
Vice-President, Human Resources
Email: helenehamilton@montfort.on.ca
Telephone (613) 746-4621 poste 2203
Bernard Leduc, MD, MBA
President & CEO
Email: bernardleduc@montfort.on.ca
Telephone (613) 746-4621 poste 2001

Overcrowded hospitals, cutbacks to cleaning linked to infection outbreaks

October 11, 2011
– Although medical experts are blaming hospital overcrowding (resulting from cuts to patient beds) for infection outbreaks – particularly outbreaks of antibiotic- resistant superbugs – the Ontario government plans to cut another 5,000 acute care beds province-wide. Currently, hospital bed occupancy is at record levels, over 97 per cent.

Studies show that healthcare-associated infections kill between 8,000 and 12,000 Canadians a year – 40 per cent of these deaths are in Ontario.

“Many of these deaths are preventable. Ontario should follow the lead of countries where hospital acquired infections have been significantly reduced by pro-active measures,” says Sharon Richer, the Vice-President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

A mobile hospital room display will be set up for a media conference on Tuesday, October 11 at 11:00 a.m. Archdekin Recreation Centre, 292 Conestoga Drive, Brampton ON. Using the mobile exhibit hospital workers will demonstrate the effective and thorough cleaning practices required to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A mobile hospital room display will be set up for a media conference on Wednesday, October 12 at 11:00 a.m. at the Elmbank Community Centre, 10 Rampart Rd, Etobicoke ON. Using the mobile exhibit hospital workers will demonstrate the effective and thorough cleaning practices required to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A mobile hospital room display will be set up for a media conference on Thursday, October 13 at 11:00 a.m. at the Wingham Knights of Columbus Centre
99 Kerr Dr, Wingham ON
. Using the mobile exhibit hospital workers will demonstrate the effective and thorough cleaning practices required to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A mobile hospital room display will be set up for a media conference on Thursday, October 14 at 11:00 a.m. at West End Community Centre (Lions Lair Room 3) 21 Imperial Rd South, Guelph ON.Using the mobile exhibit hospital workers will demonstrate the effective and thorough cleaning practices required to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

OCHU/CUPE’s mobile hospital room tour will be visiting 15 communities across central and southern Ontario beginning October 11. OCHU/CUPE represents 35,000 hospital workers province-wide.

For more information, please contact:
Sharon Richer
Vice-President, OCHU/CUPE (705) 698-6668

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications (416) 559-9300

Ailing European Bank Dexia Involved in Financing Windsor/Essex Parkway and P3 Hospital Deals in Toronto and Halton

October 11, 2011

Toronto, Ont.- Dexia, a Belgian bank hit by funding worries and exposure to Eurozone loans is involved in underwriting long-term financing for the Windsor/Essex Parkway and 3 Ontario P3 hospitals. The Belgian and French governments took steps to dismantle and nationalize parts of the bank this weekend.

Dexia’s credit rating was downgraded Friday by Standard & Poor’s to “A-/A-2” because of challenges accessing funding and the need for more collateral.

“Dexia’s downgraded credit rating will mean higher borrowing costs for these projects. The Ontario government must clarify what the fate of Dexia will mean to the Windsor/Essex Parkway project and to the provincial treasury “ said Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE. “ Many of the banks involved in Ontario’s P3 projects are European and some may fail as the Eurozone’s economic crisis worsens. We believe that Ontario will be left to guarantee all financing costs in a scheme where the government committed that all risk would in fact be transferred to the private sector.”

In the United Kingdom the Treasury Select Committee of the House of Commons has released a report that found that P3 projects are “ an extremely inefficient “ way of financing public infrastructure. The Committee found that the cost of borrowing for a typical P3 project was double the cost of the government financing the project itself.

“ The Liberal government has many P3 projects underway. It’s time to end this method of infrastructure renewal. We can’t afford it and neither can our grandchildren, who will be saddled with these additional costs, “ Hurley said.

For further information:

Michael Hurley, President, OCHU 416-884-0770

12 C. difficile Cases at Kingston General Hospital Highlight Ongoing Systemic Problems

Media Release: 9:00 p.m. August 16, 2011
The province of Ontario must require hospitals to report to the public all cases of hospital- acquired
infections when they arise, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions asserts. “In the outbreaks in the Niagara Health System and at the Kingston General Hospital there were multiple cases of Clostridium difficile confirmed before the public was notified. The current standard for declaring an outbreak in Ontario is too high and the delays in declaring an outbreak mean that people cannot weigh the risk to themselves or a family member”, says OCHU president Michael Hurley.
“ Ontario needs an aggressive approach to hospital acquired infections, which will kill between 3,200 and 5,000 patients in Ontario hospitals in 2011. Jurisdictions like the Netherlands and Scotland are much more proactive. In those countries hospital bed occupancy rates have been pushed down; reporting requirements are much more stringent; more hospital cleaners have been hired and the contracting-out of hospital cleaning has been banned” Hurley says.
“ In Ontario our major focus has been on hand-washing. But there are studies that show that the alcohol gels in Ontario hospitals may not be effective at killing C. difficile in particular. Hand washing with soap and water is also necessary. In Niagara some clinical care areas did not have sinks”, says Hurley.
Between 1991 and 2003, a period when 15,000 hospital bed were cut in Ontario, the rate of patients contracting Clostridium difficile increased almost five-fold. Ontario has the fewest number of acute hospital beds to population of any developed economy in the world. Ontario’s hospital occupancy rate of 97.9% results in overcrowding, which was cited in the review of the outbreak in Burlington, at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, as a key culprit in the deaths of over 90 patients in that facility. “ Ontario’s bed occupancy rate needs to come down for us to deal effectively with hospital-acquired infections “ says Hurley.
The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions has waged a seven year campaign on hospital acquired infections and is sponsoring an international conference on Medical Errors and Hospital Acquired Infections in June, 2012.

For more information:
Michael Hurley, President , Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE 416-884-0770

Ontario health minister continues to ignore significant factors in superbug deaths

For Immediate Release - July 15, 2011
TORONTO, Ont - At a Queen’s Park media conference today hospital staff urged Ontario’s health minister to follow through with funding to support the recommendations made by the expert team reviewing outbreaks of C. difficile linked to the deaths of 21 patients at Niagara Health System hospitals.
The report by the Public Health Ontario Infection Control Resource Team makes dozens of recommendations and proposes increased staffing for cleaning and infection control. The reports notes the challenges faced by overcrowded hospitals and proposes limits on patients sharing rooms and transfers of patients and equipment within the hospital. The report proposes a pro-active approach.
“But the Ontario health minister continues to focus on hand washing in her public comments and the CEO of the Niagara Health System has indicated that she is not sure money will be provided by the Ministry of Health & LTC for additional cleaning,” said Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) at today’s media conference.
Hospital acquired infections like MRSA, VRE and C. difficile are the fourth leading cause of death in Ontario and kill between 3,200 and 5,000 hospital patients each year. Experts have estimated that one half of these deaths are preventable. Ontario spends $1 billion each year to provide care for patients who acquire these diseases in hospital. Ontario should be investing proactively as other jurisdictions have done to achieve similar drops in infection and death rates. Scotland, for example, has hired 1,000 hospital cleaners and has driven C. difficile infection rates down by 37 per cent.
Healthcare experts make a direct connection between overcrowding and superbug outbreaks. Ontario has the fewest number of hospital beds per capita of any province and operates at 97.9 per cent capacity. In fact Ontario has the lowest number of acute hospital beds per capita of any developed economy, except for Mexico.. The British Medical Association Scientific Committee reports that as hospital bed occupancy rates increase from under 85 per cent to over 90 per cent, the risk of transmission increases by an additional 10 per cent. Ontario’s bed occupancy level is much higher than 90%.
At today’s media conference a theatre set of a hospital room was erected on the lawn of Queen’s Park to demonstrate the cleaning involved following the discharge of a patient with C. difficile. Toronto is the latest stop in a 30 community tour to raise awareness about hospital acquired infections. In 2012, OCHU is sponsoring a conference on Medical Errors and Hospital Acquired Infections.

For more information, please contact:
Michael Hurley President, OCHU/CUPE (416) 884-0770
Louis Rodrigues First VP, OCHU/CUPE (613) 531-1319
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications (416) 559-9300
No Vacancy: Ontario Health Coalition Finds Hospital Overcrowding at Untenable Levels
Toronto – A new report, “No Vacancy: Hospital Overcrowding in Ontario, Impact on Patient Safety and Access to Care” released today finds that Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per person of all provinces in Canada. The result is serious hospital overcrowding that puts patients at risk....read more

Ministry of Health shares responsibility for Niagara Hospital outbreak

Ontario’s Ministry of Health shares responsibility for the outbreak of C. Difficile at the Niagara Regional Hospital, a union representing Ontario hospital staff charged today. “ An ongoing reduction in the numbers of hospital beds in Niagara and across Ontario has driven up bed occupancy and created the conditions for the transmission of hospital acquired infections “ says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions. Hospital acquired infections are the fourth leading cause of death and kill between 3,500 and 5,000 people in Ontario hospitals each year. At least one half of these deaths are preventable.

“ If hospital overcrowding is combined with a systematic reduction in the numbers of hospital cleaners and a refusal to require hospitals to report deaths due to hospital acquired infections the ideal conditions are created for the spread of superbugs. The Ministry of Health has supervised the closure of 18,000 beds over the last 15 years. This has created an occupancy rate of 97%, which is dangerously high. It is the Ministry of Health which has supervised cuts to hospital cleaning budgets at a time when other jurisdictions, like the United Kingdom were hiring cleaners and deep-cleaning all of their hospitals. And it is the Ministry of Health that has not required deaths from hospital acquired infections to be publicly reported “ said Hurley.

“ The Ministry of Health emphasizes hand-washing. This is critical, but it is only one in a number of critical steps that must be taken to safeguard the public. The Ministry hasn’t encouraged any of the other protective measures. In Niagara, as in Burlington, once the deaths pile up, the Ministry sends in more cleaners. The public should expect the proactivity from the Ministry of Health that similar ministries in other countries have exhibited” says Hurley.

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions has waged a seven year campaign around hospital acquired infections. Next week a theatre set of a hospital room visits Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara and London as part of a 30 community tour to highlight the epidemic of hospital acquired infections. The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions is hosting a conference on Medical Errors and Hospital Acquired Infections in the spring of 2012 in Toronto.

What is the plan?

PCs and NDP must outline their policies
if regional health networks are scrapped

TORONTO, Ont. -Ontario’s opposition parties are both saying that if elected inOctober they will scrap the existing regional health agencies, known as Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), but neither has detailed a concrete alternative to replace them in order to oversee health care provincially.

What both the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) and New Democrats (NDP) appear to be offering voters heading into the provincial election is “ a magic trick that would turn a sows ear into a silk purse through yet another round of health care restructuring. And years of turmoil in the health system is thelast thing Ontarians need,” says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

Under the previous PC government, which included the current leader of the PCs Tim Hudak, health care restructuring “proved disastrous for Ontario patients. Funding was cut, hospitals were closed and merged, and they introduced compulsory contracting out for home care services that’s resulted in sharply higher costs and an exploited home care workforce whose low wages give providers their profit margins on the contracts,” says Hurley.

In their recently released policy platform, all the NDP are saying is that they will scrap the LHINs and replace with them with “local decision-making”.

“Both parties need to come forward and say exactly what system they are proposing to replace the LHINs with,” says Hurley, particularly since a recent consultant’s report has proposed radical changes to replace the LHINs. This includes cutting staff at the Ministry of Health by 50 per cent, creating an executive committee of six regional super bosses to coordinate the system, and nixing the LHINs, Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), and existing hospitals and replacing them with dozens of integrated health organizations to provide hospital, home care, primary care, and other services

The PCs have already said that as part of their plan they would impose contract competition for support services in hospitals which would require a new bureaucracy to oversee contracts.

“While the Conservatives rail against the costs of the LHINs, their plan to force tendering for support services would drive up administration costs at the expense of front line care. Which is what’s happened in jurisdictions where compulsory tendering has been introduced: administration costs have risen as hospitals divert resources to a new and bloated bureaucracy. The bottom line is our hospital system which is the most efficient in Canada, would be much less sustainable under a PC plan,” says Hurley.

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications
Ontario Regional Office
(416) 559-9300

Hudak plan to tender support services will divert almost 10 per cent of hospital budgets from front line care to administration

For Immediate Release - June 3, 2011
TORONTO, Ont. – “Ontario’s hospital system will not be sustainable under a Progressive Conservative (PC) plan to impose contract competition for support services in the public sector,” says Michael Hurley, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) president.

In every jurisdiction where compulsory tendering has been introduced, administration costs have risen as hospitals divert resources to a new and bloated bureaucracy which oversees the tendering process. “The Conservatives rail against the costs of the LHINs, but their plan to force tendering for support services would drive up administration costs at the expense of front line care. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service administrative costs have jumped from 5 per cent in the 1990’s to 14 per cent today as a result of contract tendering and privatization” says Hurley.

Ontario’s hospitals are already the most efficient in Canada, with the fewest number of beds and staff to population of any province. Ontario spends $250 less per citizen on hospital care than any other province. Support staff budgets have been cut consistently for the past twenty years.

The Conservatives’ plan would require public sector workers like support staff in hospital dietary and laundry departments—85 per cent of them women—to compete with multinational corporations for their own jobs. In most communities across Ontario, ravaged by free trade and mill and plant closures, the largest employer is now the hospital. “The Conservatives are proposing to replace as many as 50,000 modestly-paid, hospital support jobs with much lower paying ones. Across the public sector, the toll could be as high as 300,000. The economic impact on our communities will be enormous. There is something grotesque about a proposal to drive huge numbers of people into poverty to further enrich multinational corporations.”

Hospital-acquired infections kill 12,000 people in Canada each year. In British Columbia, after the province contracted out hospital cleaning, hospital-acquired infection rates increased by 40 per cent in the first year. “And they have remained at that level. Contractors skimped on cleaning products, diluting disinfectants to the point that they became ineffective. The low wages contractors pay cleaning staff lead to high staff turnover. This was the unintended consequence of the privatization of hospital support services,” says Hurley.

Collective agreements, covering nearly 65,000 hospital workers, saw wage settlements one-third lower than prevailing public sector settlements when negotiated. “It is not the wages of hospital support workers that are driving up heath care costs, but the wholly-privatized, for-profit parts of the system—profits to the corporations running long-term care and home care, P3 hospitals (30 per cent more expensive to operate), drugs and technology. The PC plan would take an axe to the wrong budget line, introduce a new corpulent level of bureaucracy, and badly hurt people and communities that are trying to survive,” says Hurley.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Hurley
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (OCHU/CUPE)
(416) 884-0770

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications
(416) 559-9300

Choice of biased bank executive to review health care highly suspect

Puts Liberals on collision course with patients, hospital workers
For Immediate Release: March 31, 2011 TORONTO, Ont. – The choice of former bank executive Don Drummond, whose views “are clearly skewed to increased private delivery of health care, to review health spending is unacceptable and clearly indicates where the Liberal government is heading on this file after the October 2011 provincial election," says Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), the hospital arm of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) which represents 35,000 hospital staff province-wide.

In May 2010, as a TD Bank executive, Drummond co-authored a report that not only promoted private sector involvement in health care delivery, but challenged the government to “open the door more widely to private sector involvement and capitalize on the huge economic potential…”

"Drummond’s premise, that health care spending is unsustainable does not stand up to scrutiny. Hospital cost increases, for example, have been flatlined, relative to gross domestic product since the creation of Medicare in Canada. It is the private delivery of health care, drugs, medical technologies and for-profit care – the elements for which Drummond is a champion, that are unsustainable and spiking health care spending.

"Private-public partnership (P3) hospitals – Ontario is building 24 – cost 30 per cent more to build and operate and are 30 per cent smaller than hospitals that are publicly-owned and operated. The cost overruns on the first four P3 hospitals in Ontario were $950,000,000 according to the provincial auditor general. We cannot afford more private sector involvement in the delivery of health care services," says Hurley.

Studies show that Ontario receives $250 less per citizen than any other province for its hospital services as a result of the inequities in the federal transfer system. A meta-analysis published several years ago in the Canadian Medical Journal showed higher death rates in hospitals and clinics run on a for-profit basis.

“We have the most efficient hospital system in Canada – the fewest beds and staff measured against population and the shortest lengths of stay,” says Hurley. This efficiency is threatened by privatization which will suck dollars that should be spent on care into profits.

At an emergency meeting of the OCHU executive in Kingston today, a motion was passed asking the Liberal government to rescind Drummond's appointment.

“Coy commitments from the Liberal government to public sector delivery, while appointing a leading advocate for health care privatization, are very disturbing. Hospital staff, represented by CUPE, will meet in April to discuss a vigorous campaign of resistance to privatization of the services we deliver," says Hurley.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Hurley President, OCHU/CUPE (416) 884-0770
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications (416) 559-9300

Kingston General Hospital staff announce a major campaign to stop the contracting out of retail food services

For release: 6:00 a.m. October 15, 2010
Kingston Ontario…The local union representing 1200 nursing, support and clerical staff at Kingston General Hospital is today announcing a major campaign to stop the contracting out of retail food services.

CUPE Local 1974 president Louis Rodrigues says “ retail food services makes a significant profit for KGH every year. There is no reason to contract-out this service. The hospital’s dietary department first won the bid to deliver the service and then the tendering process was reopened to other bidders. In the second round the in-house dietary service was not even allowed to make a presentation.”

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions president Michael Hurley is today “ calling on the Minister of Health to investigate the tendering of the contract for retail food services at Kingston General Hospital. The Hospital should be prevented from signing a contract while the Minister investigates this very peculiar bidding process.”

Mr. Rodrigues says “ that the campaign will involve a $100,000 advertising campaign and a series of information sessions and demonstrations. We will be asking the Kingston community why its flagship hospital doesn’t buy its produce and meats from local farmers and suppliers. Why does KGH want a multinational to produce food in a factory in Mississauga and ship it hundreds of kilometres up the 401?”

Under the CUPE collective agreement workers cannot be laid off in a contracting out. Mr. Rodrigues says “ this is not about our jobs, those are protected. This is about what public institutions do with taxpayers money. “

For information contact:
Louis Rodrigues, President, CUPE Local 1974: 613-531-1319
Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions: 416-884-0770

The Public Sector: Searching for a Focus

Sam Gindin and Michael Hurley As capitalism begins to emerge from the ‘Great Financial Crisis,’ there is good reason for working people to refrain from celebration. Though the roots of the crisis were in the private sector, it's clear that the bill will be primarily paid via the public sector – which is to say that the costs will be placed on the working class as both providers and recipients of social services. Moreover, although economic and political elites experienced a significant decline in credibility as a result of the crisis, popular movements – a few exceptions aside – remain on the defensive and are generally ill-prepared to respond. Most dangerously, as our weaknesses are exposed, and as pressures from business grow to ‘deal with the deficit,’ the government will likely harden its position and modest restraints will turn into more severe cutbacks.

And so at a time when people will need more public programs and supports, they will get less. In Ontario, the recent $200-million cut to the ‘special diet program,’ to help people on social assistance buy fresh fruits and vegetables and other medically necessary dietary supplements, is one especially disgraceful example of this, after spending billions bailing out auto companies and supporting the financial sector. And at a moment when unions in the private sector are reeling from the job losses resulting from restructuring and globalization, it is their public sector counterparts – now at the center of any hope for reviving the labour movement – that are under the gun.
The Challenge to Unions

The 2010 Ontario Budget of the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty – following a pattern set in Budgets at the Federal level and in Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia and now being generalized across the country – tries to trap and marginalize public sector workers in two particular ways. First, the government framed the issue to isolate these workers. It cynically set itself up as the defender of services, while suggesting that higher labour costs would be paid for through cutting services: if workers demand improved compensation, this would only prove that they didn't care about the public. The very name given to the legislation makes this intent clear enough: the ‘Public Sector Compensation Restraint and Protection of Public Services Act.’

Second, the Ontario government has attempted to create a wage freeze environment, that is, to orient workers and their unions to assume that wage and benefit gains are impossible. It has not done this by directly introducing legislation to open existing collective agreements or to directly ban bargaining gains. Instead, it imposed a two-year compensation freeze on non-unionized employees alongside stipulating that its ‘transfer partners’ (the various agencies and departments involved in bargaining with unions) would not be funded for any net compensation increases in any open or renewal collective agreements. Those employers would, of course, use that limit on funding to ‘reluctantly’ offer unionized workers only zero compensation packages.

For all the politics behind the focus on controlling wages without the Liberal government directly doing the dirty work, the approach they've taken is very likely linked to a 2007 Supreme Court decision. That ruling declared a law unconstitutional if “provisions of the legislation enacted by the government interfere with their [i.e. unions'] right to a process of collective bargaining with the employer.” The Supreme Court, however, closed its eyes to the substance of bargaining: “It is the collective bargaining process that is constitutionally protected, not the content of the actual provisions of the collective agreements.” This seems to endorse the hypocrisy of the Ontario government saying they have left bargaining intact, while supporting specific employers who argue they are bargaining in good faith even if the end result is pre-determined. [Health Services and Support – Facilities Subsector Bargaining Assn. v. British Columbia, SCR 391, June 8, 2007.]

In 2010, approximately 850 agreements covering 134,000 public sector workers open for negotiation in Ontario. Among the first agreements up are many covering small social service agencies, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and numerous university collective agreements of CUPE. Last year's strikes at York University and city workers in Windsor and Toronto (all represented by CUPE) were difficult. In the new environment, strikes will be all the more tough-going. An April 2010 OPSEU settlement of 0% and 0% for 1,200 Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) employees with the right to strike may be suggestive of where OPSEU will be heading in sectors with the right to strike, including social services. At the municipal level (where employers can raise revenue through taxation) and in essential services workers (where unions have access to interest arbitration), the settlement outcomes may be different.

Wage freeze regimes, like the Ontario government is attempting to impose, block workers from sharing in the output gains from productivity increases. As well, they prevent addressing the incredible shift in income distribution in favour of the richest groups in society since the early 1980s. How might unions effectively respond without becoming public scapegoats?
Bargaining Wages: Limits on ‘Business-as-Usual’

The response from public sector union leaders – divided by politics, ideology, and bargaining territory but united in their caution – has been muted. Ontario Revenue Minister John Wilkinson has indicated that some kind of implicit accord has been reached with the union leadership already. Seven years of “unprecedented labour peace” between the Ontario government and public sector workers, he suggested, will see workers and their unions co-operate rather than fight with the government on the wage freezes. “I've been really surprised and kind of heartened ... by the fact that people who are paid by the taxpayers, have all kind of indicated they understand,” he said.

It may be tempting to recommend that unions who are too weak to resist wage cuts look to ‘trading-off’ wages for jobs. But if there is any lesson from the past, it is that when workers look to trade wages for jobs they generally end up with lower wages and fewer jobs. The reason for this is quite straightforward: it is one thing to fight for jobs and another to think they can be won out of weakness. If cutting public sector jobs is a government priority, they won't reverse themselves unless public sector unions and allies are strong enough to force them to.

In the past, the public sector union response might have been obvious: we won't let them erode our individual and collective democratic rights – at least we won't let it happen without a bitter fight. In today's context, the problem is that confronting individual employers one-by-one leaves public sector unions too fragmented to break the clampdown on wages and doesn't address the lack of community support – without which politicians and employers are left more confident in their hard line while union members tend to become more demoralized

A serious response would require a very significant mobilization – at a minimum creating new structures for bringing unions together. Unless this is done, militant rhetoric about defying the wage freeze is only posturing. It also risks leaving public sector union members more isolated, and therefore more vulnerable in the future, than before. But it also requires bringing the users of public services – the rest of the working class – to our side. And that may mean going beyond general support for social issues; it may necessitate bringing that commitment into collective bargaining.
Adjusting Union Strategy: Expanding Collective Bargaining

In the 1930s – the last time the working class went through comparable economic chaos – workers radically and creatively adjusted their strategy by developing sectoral-based industrial unions. A comparable strategic adjustment for unions today would lie in transforming the confrontation from one between the workers and the individual employer, to one between public sector workers and the province by consolidating bargaining strength and moving into a strike position together.

Although specific groups of workers may well have very legitimate wage and benefit claims and may win the occasional battle, the strategic issue today is not in fact wages. If jobs go, wages are secondary but if public sector workers lead a fight to protect and extend services, this not only addresses jobs but builds the community support for taking on future wage improvements.

The strategic shift for public sector unions might be posed as follows: the government, by removing wages and benefit improvements from negotiations, is trying to dramatically narrow collective bargaining. What if the unions responded by expanding collective bargaining? What if public sector unions refused to settle collective agreements unless the settlements address the level, quality and administration of the services being provided?

Unions have often taken positions on these issues, and a number of unions or locals have already moved toward greater community links. The Ontario Health Coalition and CUPE, the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), OPSEU, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) have over many years been holding forums and mobilizing at the community level against healthcare cutbacks. The CUPE Toronto Hydro local has revived its previously successful campaign against privatization and is now extending that campaign to engage communities on the potential environmental leadership role of a publically owned electrical utility. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) has been holding forums on transit services. CUPE workers in the Toronto education sector have been mobilizing at the community level against school closures. At the level of central labour bodies, the Toronto & York Region Labour Council, working with groups outside the official trade union movement like the Workers' Action Center, held a successful series of community forums to win increases in the minimum wage. But going a step further and demonstrating the commitment of unions to improved public services by placing these issues on the bargaining table would represent a radical break in a number of ways.

First, the labour movement would have a focus – something it is sorely lacking now. Rather than each bargaining unit going through the motions of collective bargaining and further fragmenting workers with the message that there was nothing that could be done (or that it could have been worse), there would be a new basis of potential unity and possibilities. All unions would place the broader demands on the table.

Second, public sector unions would be leading the fight to preserve social services. Rather than letting the government and business isolate public sector workers as a cost that limits funds for public services, we'd be positioned to expose and clarify where the real problems lie. And by moving from progressive rhetoric to committed social action, there would be a basis to build the alliances that are fundamental to effecting change.

Third, the relationship between unions and their members would be changed. For such a perspective to succeed, unions would first have to win their own members over. This means a real emphasis on internal education; the widest discussion with members on tactics and risks; and developing confident organizers to engage the community. The intense mobilization implied by this would, in other words, mean bringing union members into a new kind of class politics and a more substantive union democracy.

Fourth, union structures would have to be transformed. Alongside any commitment to transform the content of union educational and democratic spaces, there would also have to be a reorganization of the technical supports that unions provide. Research and education departments would, for example, have to place relatively greater emphasis on the content of budgets and how expanded demands might be paid for; on the impact of the commercialization of public sector management on not just the level but the quality of services; and on alternative forms of management and delivery more sensitive to community needs.

Fifth, tactical creativity would be encouraged. As important as it is to prepare better policies and plans for the public sector, this will not be enough. There is an overwhelming need for public sector unions to develop new creative workplace tactics. These need to be coordinated so that union and progressive issues are put on the agenda in a way that the governments cannot ignore, while also contributing to building more support for union and socialist positions amongst other working people.

One such example is the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) offering to continue to deliver pension and social assistance checks even if they go on strike. That action blocked the government from using the elderly and the poor as pawns against the union and highlighted the class dimensions of the strike – CUPW was fighting the employer and a postal system biased to corporations, not the general public.

Another example occurred when the government tightened unemployment insurance rules to cut more people off. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represented the workers administrating the program, prepared pamphlets for unemployed workers on how to answer the questions so they would not unfairly lose their needed income. The union was using its knowledge and skills to show class solidarity and prevented its members from being pitted against other workers.

We need to learn about other such actions or invent new ones and build them into an overall united labour strategy – such as a week of actions across unions or weekly actions spread over time. Some possibilities inspired by the CUPW and PSAC actions might include:

* Transit workers declaring periodic free transit days when they don't collect fares in order to highlight transit as a basic element of universal access to our city.

* Teachers and workers in the education sector fighting school closures by having a city-wide teach-in – during regular class hours and in lieu of a normal strike – to discuss schools as public spaces and alternatives uses for the facilities.

* Hospital workers coming in on a given day for a work-in to highlight staff shortages, and long-term care workers doing the same to demand 3.5 hours of care standards for long term care residents.

* Social workers organizing a teach-in with welfare recipients to discuss why they are put into positions of mutual frustration and what might be done about providing betters services and as part of this, more rewarding jobs).

What Next Steps for Public Sector Unions?

A starting point to get this on the agenda is to begin talking about it in workplaces, locals, unions, at labour councils, and at the OFL and CLC. Public sector unions and leaders need to ask ourselves whether we have a direction that is in fact taking us anywhere and if not, what – given the recent failures in protecting public sector services and workers – new alternatives might be.

Putting our local executives in motion could follow, with an emphasis on using (or reviving) union structures to spread the discussion among the wider membership, develop networks across locals, get this on the agenda of the larger labour movement, reflect on how to more successfully reach the public, and strategize over how to disrupt the goods and services public sector workers produce in a way that advances our collective cause.

These committees would need support. Some of this could be done internally. In other cases, public forums could be held across locals and unions to teach ourselves more about the public sector. This might include workshops on how far the cutbacks have gone elsewhere (so we see what may be coming); on how workers have resisted in other countries (to be inspired and get ideas); on the details of the Ontario and City budgets (so we can analyze and discuss them properly); on larger questions about the potentials and limits of financing public services in a capitalist society.

At the same time, the various groups affected by cutbacks and ignored needs could organize to further the links among themselves as well as develop contacts with the labour committees. More ambitiously, at some point neighbourhood committees might be organized to discuss community services, infrastructure, transportation, the expectations of a democratized public sector, and many other issues.

All this should not be restricted to public sector workers and community groups. Private sector workers have an interest not just in regards to union solidarity and not even just because social services are becoming more important as the door is closing to collective bargaining gains. It is also a question of private sector jobs and future security. If – as seems increasingly the case – the private sector provides little hope in the short term for decent working class jobs, then the intervention of a more credible and democratic public sector becomes all the more important.

Why, for example, could not all the plant closures in the auto industry be taken under the wing of a government agency committed to converting the valuable tools, equipment, and worker skills into socially useful production? The environmental challenge adds another dimension to such possibilities, since it means that everything – factories and machines, offices and equipment, homes and appliances, transportation and the entire infrastructure – will have to be adapted or converted through this century. An attack on the public sector that goes unchallenged closes off any such possibilities and leaves all of us ever more dependent on the private sector and its ‘solutions.’
Union Renewal Requires New Alliances

The greatest current danger is that all of us as workers and unionists keep lowering our expectations of what kind of society is possible – and then lowering them some more. There is a desperate need to rethink where we are at and to transform what is a looming disaster into a capacity for renewal. There is a need to develop a new response. It will be risky and difficult, but there is no longer any denying that it is essential.

One way or the other, this will involve workers seeing themselves as not ‘just workers’ but agents with the potential capacities to shape society and affect their lives. In particular, workers are part of a broader class that goes beyond public versus private unions, organized versus unorganized, employed versus unemployed and includes the poor. It is this relationship that lays the basis for effective alliances, and what it now concretely poses is rethinking how workers approach collective bargaining, especially at this moment and in the public sector.

One such example, among the several of new community-union alliances to forge a new working class politics, is the Toronto Workers' Assembly. This needs to evolve into a space where activists can talk about such challenges and come to some agreement on developing concrete responses. •

Sam Gindin is the Visiting Packer Chair in Social Justice at York University, Toronto.

Michael Hurley is President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and Vice-President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Ontario.

If readers have other examples of innovative public sector bargaining tactics, deployed or just ideas, or want to participate in discussions in the Toronto or Ottawa areas, please contact us at labour_at_workersassembly.ca

Privatization of hospital clinical services is possible, Ministry of Health discloses to Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal

For immediate release: April 20, 2010
Thunder Bay, Ontario…Predictions that setting prices and tendering for the provision of hospital clinical services would lead to privatization of those services were reinforced by the Ministry of Health on Monday. A Ministry of Health spokesperson, in an email to the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Herald stated that the government is “ not considering outsourcing or privatization “ and that any change in that position “ would only be undertaken with consultation with the field and that implementation would be phased in to protect hospitals and the public from service disruption. “

OCHU President Michael Hurley, told a convention of hospital union leaders in Thunder Bay this morning that “ we are grateful for the Ministry being frank with the media about their intentions. The commercialization of hospital clinical services will lead inevitably to the privatization of those services. That is what happened in the United Kingdom where a private hospital system is flourishing. In British Columbia the Ministry of Health has announced that private providers will compete to deliver hospital clinical services.”

“ Because private delivery of healthcare is more expensive, there was an enormous increase in spending on the British Healthcare system to finance the move to patient-based funding. In addition, there were widespread closures of smaller community hospitals. These outcomes are unaffordable and unacceptable” Hurley told delegates.

Delegates to the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions unanimously adopted a battle plan Monday to fight the Liberals’ patient-based funding model with an escalating campaign in the lead-up to the provincial election.

For information contact: Michael Hurley, President, OCHU: 416-884-0770

Hospital staff meet to fight Liberal clinical services privatization which threatens rural and northern hospitals

For release: 6:00 a.m. April 19, 2010
Thunder Bay Ontario… 200 representatives from 65 Ontario hospital corporations represented by CUPE meet in Thunder Bay from Monday through Wednesday. On their agenda is the plan announced in the Throne Speech to set prices for hospital clinical services and tender those services to the lowest bidder.

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions president Michael Hurley will tell delegates this morning that “ this scheme, when introduced in Britain, encouraged a private hospital system to flourish. After it was introduced in the United Kingdom, there followed widespread closures of small community hospitals, which could not compete to deliver services. And public hospitals went bankrupt as they lost bids to deliver clinical services. “

“ The Liberal government reassures the public that privatization of clinical services will not result from their plan, as happened in Britain, but last week the British Columbia Minister of Health, when introducing an identical proposal, said that the private sector will deliver 20% of the clinical services in this new market “ Hurley will argue. “ After the next provincial election the government will open up hospital services in Ontario to private sector competition “.

“ Northern, rural and small community hospitals are seriously threatened by this plan “ Hurley will warn OCHU delegates. “ Clinical services will be sucked out of small town Ontario and moved to large urban centres. Communities will lose their hospitals on a scale we have not seen since the 1990’s. “

“ There is no question that our members will work with their communities to defend their hospitals and our Medicare system from privatization. This campaign will ramp up as we approach the 2011 election “ Hurley will conclude.

For information contact: Michael Hurley, President, OCHU: 416-884-0770

Ontario Throne Speech

Ontario government plan for hospitals to compete for patients a ‘lose-lose’ failure in Britain—says major study
For Immediate Release March 8, 2010
TORONTO, Ont. – The signal in today’s Throne Speech that the Ontario Liberals intend to proceed on a model where hospitals compete for patients and funding—being called a ‘lose-lose’ policy in Britain by a major report on market-based health reforms there—is not good news for Ontarians, says the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

The Ontario Liberal plan to have Ontario hospitals compete for patients based on who can provide care and surgeries more cheaply is a retread of the market-based health care reforms introduced over eight years ago in Britain. Those reforms, concludes Civitas—a respected policy think tank in a report released on March 1, 2010—are increasing costs, providing few benefits, and are fueling debt in the National Health Service (NHS).

OCHU president Michael Hurley says “the Ontario Liberals would be well advised to back away from these types market-based reforms that are failing in Britain.

Civitas report concludes that, ‘for now, the available evidence indicates that the NHS may have found itself in a lose-lose situation—taking on the extra costs of competition without reaping the benefits.’ “Competition is not working for patients in Britain. Why would we want to experiment with it here?” Asks Hurley.

In addition to providing health care based on competition and consumer pricing, the Liberal plan would also result in some procedures being cut from local hospitals. Patients in smaller communities would lose local access to some services and have to travel outside their area to access health care, says OCHU president Michael Hurley.

“From what we know about the failure of these types of health care reforms, Ontarians should be very concerned about the Liberals direction on health care,” says Hurley, who also points out “that Ontarians are not asking for these reforms and have never been consulted on the changes.”

Liberal MPPs—particularly those from rural and northern communities—may find that the next 18 months heading into the provincial election “is more unsettling than they had anticipated,” says Hurley. “Hospital, and other health care workers represented by OCHU, are not supportive of the reforms and will be aggressively opposing them. Unfortunately, this government appears to be on a collision course with hospital staff who care passionately about the quality of care and services.

Hurley points out that Ontario has the most efficient hospital system in Canada based on length of stay, staff per patient and beds to population, despite federal underfunding relative to other provinces. “Hospital workers will defend that service because we love it,” says Hurley.

For more information, contact:

Michael Hurley President, OCHU 416-884-0770