Opinion: Public pressure on politicians only way Brampton will get better healthcare

Published February 21, 2021 at 9:40 pm

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By Vijai Kumar

What began as a duty incumbent upon neighbours now feels like a pitiless defeat at the hands of a relentless enemy.

It’s clear the general public has to continue to make sacrifices for an indefinite period of time until a critical mass of people get vaccinated.

Canadians continue to heed the advice of public health officials even after a year languishing away in our homes. During this same period, governments waited too long to enact policies that could have forestalled our current state.

What’s more, politicians have been caught shirking their own responsibilities. When they tell us “stay home, save lives” it feels less like a civic obligation and more like a cheap ruse to shift the responsibility to everyday Canadians.

Add to that the current vaccine uncertainty and it’s no surprise that Canadians are feeling fatalistic with their chances of getting COVID-19. If it is true that Canadians are becoming too desensitized to the virus, perhaps it’s time to recognize that requiring collective action is not a sustainable solution managing hospital over-capacity.

South Korea was humbled by the MERS outbreak in 2015 which motivated them to create the epidemiological personnel that came in handy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data culture of the Far East, while certainly effective, may be incompatible with Western culture surrounding civil liberties. Any of the proven solutions would be far better than what we have today, but what I am advocating for is something more fundamental — something so mind-bogglingly straightforward it may seem almost too obvious. If our healthcare system can be crippled by spikes in hospitalizations, and we simply don’t have the capacity to deal with a surge in cases, why exactly aren’t more hospitals being built?

At the beginning of 2020, when the idea of a global pandemic seemed far-fetched, my hometown of Brampton declared a healthcare emergency.

With only one hospital serving a population of around 600,000 people, hallway medicine had become common practice at this point. Brampton received an urgent care centre to help with this problem, but it operated regularly at over 500 percent capacity. Despite this state of crisis, January 2020 was a glimmer of hope because Doug Ford announced his intention to bring a second hospital to the city.

Fast forward to November 2020 and Ford’s provincial budget makes no mention of a new hospital. Instead, Ford commits more beds to our single hospital, Brampton Civic. The Ontario PC party blamed years of Liberal incompetence for Brampton’s dire state, but they came up with the same solutions.

The urgent care centre, originally created to assuage pressures on Brampton Civic, was fully converted into a COVID-19 testing centre during the pandemic, putting the strain back on the only hospital in the city.

Elective surgeries have been postponed indefinitely and non-urgent minor procedures and diagnostic imaging have been flat out cancelled. Just because these medical issues are not immediately life-threatening doesn’t mean they can’t worsen and cause severe pain in the meantime.

The federal government has also failed to provide adequate support for healthcare funding. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared his commitment to increase the Canada Health Transfer in the long term, opening up more healthcare funding for provinces down the line. He was unwilling, however, to provide an increase in the short term, focusing instead on “getting through this pandemic.” Wouldn’t improving our healthcare system help us get through this pandemic?

This pandemic has shown that the government may never invest in the appropriate healthcare resources for Brampton. For years, politicians have gaslit us about the state of our healthcare system, downplaying its severity and even outright blaming us. We continue to be gaslit about our own culpability in the spread of COVID-19, despite the fact that a significant number of our neighbours work essential jobs. Politicians have disappointed Brampton for years and if we continue to allow them, they’d be happy to disappoint us again. The economics of politics are such that players are incentivized to break their promises if they face no electoral consequences.

Both the federal and provincial elections will likely take place in the next couple of years. As the recovery from the pandemic begins, these elections will be a direct referendum on their leadership during this time. There is one final bid to make politicians understand that their broken promises are deadly. These must be single issue elections for Brampton.

(Vijai Kumar is a freelance writer and economic policy researcher, working with organizations like the OECD and Indigenomics Institute. He is an engaged Bramptonian, lover of the arts, and impassioned advocate of community wealth)

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