Canadians believe that medicare is one of the foundations of our society and revere the New Democratic Party’s first federal leader as the driving force behind its introduction.
But Tommy Douglas had a vision for medicare that is quite different from the system that ensures Canadians need not worry about hospital and doctor bills if they fall ill.
He believed that the ultimate goal of a publicly funded healthcare system should be a system that works for the good health of Canadians of all ages – one that promotes wellness as much as it fights illness – from well-baby programs to nutritional health to counselling to community supports for elders.
The COVID pandemic has thrown a harsh light on a truth that has long driven New Democrats’ fight for a very different approach to healthcare than we currently see in Ontario. Even though medicare reduces the financial barriers to healthcare, health outcomes are not the same for all.
COVID has had a vastly more serious impact on Ontario’s neglected elderly, our poor, and on our racialized communities. A Toronto Star study graphically illustrated how persons of colour represented 83% of the recorded COVID cases in Toronto even though they make up only 50% of the city’s residents.
Race, poverty, social class and gender identity are significant determinants of health. Healthcare that ensures the good health of all Canadians must go beyond treating illness. It must address the challenges of marginalized communities with more than declarations of good intentions – with programs and supports like early child and family services, adult learning, youth programs and harm reduction supports for communities and individuals most in need.
In Ontario, it is the Community Health Centres that lead the way in providing these programs to communities and families in need. Doctors, nurse practitioners, dietitians, dental staff, chiropodists, counsellors, community mental health and health promotion professionals who provide high-quality, cost-effective care to local members in welcoming and inclusive settings where the focus is on promoting wellness as well as treating illness.
But there are only 101 Community Health Centres to serve 14.7 million Ontarians.
As the COVID pandemic continues to rage, the Ford government is reorganizing the delivery of healthcare in Ontario once more – replacing the health bureaucracy designed by the Liberals with another, more hospital-focused system that will move even further from the community-based wellness model of health delivery to a system increasingly focused on hospitals, physician-led decision-making and the treatment of illness.
The current government’s health reform agenda ignores the social context of health that has been demonstrated so clearly in this pandemic.
Whereas New Democrats believe government must direct appropriate healthcare resources to marginalized communities that have high needs, and
Whereas Ontario’s Community Health Centres have a long and successful record of creating locally based services that include meaningful ways for people to have input into the services and programs they require,
Therefore be it resolved that Ontario New Democrats are committed to a healthcare reform agenda that will:
This resolution was voted on and passed by a general meeting of the Etobicoke Lakeshore NDP on October 8th, 2020.