New Ontario health bill threatens key services, OPSEU says

Bill 171 being rushed through the legislature in advance of fall election


Toronto (5 June 2007) - Changes to provincial health legislation In Ontario threaten to undermine the province’s public health laboratories and the delivery of counseling services across the province, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).

“In its rush to push Bill 171 through before the legislature rises for the fall election, the McGuinty government is putting Ontarians’ health at risk,” says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

One of the bill’s key features is creation of a new agency for health protection and promotion, which will take over 12 provincial public health labs from the ministry of health and long-term care.

"Setting this agency up outside the Ontario Public Service is a bad idea,” says Thomas. “It will weaken government accountability for the funding and operation of the public health labs and other key services, and it flies in the face of Justice Archie Campbell’s recommendations following the SARS crisis.”

Compounding this threat is the government’s failure to guarantee that no public health lab services will be cut or downloaded, and that the jobs, wages, pensions and collective agreement rights of the labs’ 600 unionized employees will be protected under the new agency, OPSEU says.

Meanwhile, the bill’s clumsy move to regulate psychotherapy will jeopardize counseling services delivered by thousands of health and social service professionals in Ontario, OPSEU says.

“The bill combines a very broad definition of what constitutes psychotherapy with very narrow restrictions on who can perform these services,” adds Thomas.

“This could prevent thousands of professionals – from child and youth workers and developmental service workers to people who work in women’s shelters and other community agencies – from delivering counseling services that are a key part of their work.” NUPGE