People's Need for Decision-Making Power

Pay-the-Rich Scams Revealed by Privatization of Health Care

Scandals and outrageous decisions made by governments at different levels which involve the privatization of health care services, including senior's care institutions, and all manner of corrupt pay-the-rich schemes are often reported. Many times they are taken up as matters of corruption and bad social policy and proof is given about how people are made disposable while the quest for profits is put at the centre of the considerations of the providers. While it is important to raise our voices to protest the destruction of social programs and give evidence of their damaging consequences, what these pay-the-rich schemes reveal is the people's lack of decision-making power.

There are no mechanisms in society to permit the people to set the direction of social policy or how it is carried out. To say that the people have the option to vote to replace one cartel party with another, both of which engage in the same practices, will not do. The situation calls on working people to further develop new forms where they discuss the issues of concern to society and discuss a new direction, while selecting for election those who are their peers and speak in their own name to represent the claims the working class and people are entitled to make on society.

A crucial discussion is how to replace the fundamental premise of the electoral law which has as its aim to form party governments. This makes the fight of these parties for power so as to control decision-making and serve private interests their end-all and be-all. When they form a government, they become as corrupt as or more corrupt than their predecessor.

The Hamilton Spectator on March 2 reported that Hamilton Health Services (HHS) signed six-month contracts with two private U.S. companies to supply perfusionists, the medical professionals who operate heart-lung machines. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents perfusionists at HHS, says the agency workers are paid U.S.$200 an hour, more than four times the staff wage of CAD$48 to $58 and that the companies are paid an additional amount on top of that. The HHS said that they are using three to four agency perfusionists a week and they are guaranteed full-time work.

HHS originally had 17 perfusionists before dropping to 12 in 2022 and down to four full-time and four part-time in 2023. In addition to agency staff, HHS also hires one to three visiting locums, usually retired or from out-of-town hospitals who come to work in Hamilton on their holidays. Last year locums were making about CAD$121 an hour plus travel and hotel expenses and the union now says that locums who regularly worked for HHS have been hired by private agencies, one of which is Perfusion Life, a U.S. perfusion staffing agency.

A locum is a medical professional who substitutes for a practice's regular staff member for a period of time. Also, when hospitals or clinics experience higher traffic than their current staff can manage, facility administrators might request additional support from locums.

Not a word about the private agencies which get paid a premium to provide such medical professionals at public expense while health clinics and facilities deteriorate exponentially. Not a word about what kind of life the young people live who are attracted to work for the private rather than the public sector because of the higher remuneration. And why not but there are consequences. All these young people are forced into a fend-for-yourself dog-eat-dog world without union protection or the social solidarity which comes from being members of an organized force which regulates the competition with their peers and eliminates the need to market themselves or pay hiring agencies. Young people end up with total reliance on banks, insurance companies and investments for emergencies and pensions. What appears like a good deal when they are young, can turn into a nightmare when least expected. 

HHS claims that the availability of locums to HHS has not changed as a result of the contracts. OPSEU says that one of the major causes of the shortage is that the perfusionists in Hamilton are paid $10 to $17 less per hour than perfusionists in Toronto hospitals making it hard to recruit and retain staff. Sara Labelle, chair of the hospital professional division at OPSEU said that HHS has used temporary bonuses to bring its wages up but that is not satisfactory because perfusionists need higher hourly rates that are pensionable and permanent. Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition pointed out that HHS staff working side by side with agency staff making four times their rate may choose to leave and join an agency themselves. "They cannibalize the existing staff force which results in a vicious spiral in which hospitals that are short staffed turn to private staffing agencies to deal with the shortage and that creates even worse staffing shortages," said Mehra.

This article was published in
Volume 54 Number 2 - March 2024

Article Link:


Website:   Email: