Residents outside Brampton Civic Hospital protested decades of underfunding & recent privatization of services
(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)

Residents outside Brampton Civic Hospital protested decades of underfunding & recent privatization of services

Brampton Civic, where the term hallway healthcare was popularized years ago, was the setting for a recent public display of frustration over inequitable treatment by successive provincial governments. The dangerous consequences of this chronic neglect were described by residents who told their harrowing personal healthcare stories in a city facing an ongoing crisis. 

“This hospital is unfortunately a symbol of how underserved Brampton and Caledon are,” Janine Herrmann-McLeod, Co-Chair of Brampton Caledon Health Coalition, said about Brampton Civic Hospital, where protesters gathered on April 22. 

It is the sole full-service hospital in Brampton which also serves Caledon residents. They struggle with less than half the average number of hospital beds per capita compared to the rest of the province, which commonly puts local residents in need of acute care at risk.

“We are not protesting healthcare workers who work so hard, who have been given so little to care for a huge population,” she said. The lack of investment to adequately serve the population and continued privitization by Premier Doug Ford’s PC government were highlighted by residents who drew attention to the ongoing healthcare crisis in Brampton. 

“Healthcare workers have been betrayed by this government and we are here to fight for them and to fight for us,” she said. “They’re still healthcare heroes. Even though COVID shutdowns are over, they’re still heroes, and COVID isn't over either.”  


Demonstrators gathered at the corner of Bramalea Road and Bovaird Drive as vehicles passed by and honked their horn in support.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer) 


She said residents in Brampton and Caledon are “frustrated with the lack of healthcare. We believe that Brampton deserves more, Caledon deserves more, patients deserve more and healthcare workers deserve more.” 

She highlighted some of the alarming stories of local residents, including the increasing examples of people paying out of pocket for care. 

“There are people dying of preventable illnesses and treatable illnesses, so along with the privitization…we are just seeing a complete dismantling of our public healthcare system.” It is “becoming more and more like the United States where people go into crushing medical debt, they lose their homes, they avoid care and end up in hospitals like this which end up more overwhelmed.” Residents are sometimes forced to pay “three to ten times the cost of a surgery”. She said their OHIP card and credit card are increasingly being used together. 

Health sector unions including CUPE/OCHU, the Ontario Nurses’ Association, OPSEU/SEFPO, SEIU Healthcare, and Unifor have warned that PC policies allowing private clinics to perform certain procedures covered under OHIP, will lead to practices such as up-selling unnecessary medical services not covered by OHIP and the slow erosion of public healthcare as more and more wealthy patients decide to pay for options that will eventually replace what is currently covered by the traditional system.  

Doug Ford’s PC government, the unions have said, is intentionally trying to demoralize their healthcare members. The simultaneous erosion of the public system, as staff continue to exit due to low pay and burnout, is happening as increased funding for private clinics puts more pressure on Ontario hospitals that face worsening staffing shortages. 

It is all part of the PC plan, demonstrators in Brampton said. 

Doug Ford’s ongoing attack on public healthcare was denounced outside Brampton Civic Hospital.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


Carmen Gauthier, a Brampton resident of 20 years, came out to participate in the rally and express her opposition to the privatization of healthcare services in Ontario. 

She is calling on Doug Ford's government to rethink its policy to finance private care.

“Many generations…we fought hard for the care, for OHIP…to have public services.” Her grandparents’ generation had previously taken up the fight. 

“When I moved in Brampton, they had the Peel Memorial Hospital and shortly after they closed it and they opened the Civic, but with not very much of an increase in the number of beds,” despite the exploding population.

Brampton became the poster child for hallway healthcare as its residents have demanded a fair share of funding.  

The COVID-19 pandemic only further devastated the already overwhelmed hospital prompting the previous City council to declare a state of healthcare emergency, demanding 850 acute-care hospital beds at Peel Memorial, the city’s preventative medicine healthcare centre, through its promised expansion.

The project will only deliver 250 beds, almost all of which will be non-acute, and Peel Memorial will not be a full-service general hospital on par with a facility like Brampton Civic, despite claims from Mayor Patrick Brown and Premier Ford that it will be the city’s “second hospital.” According to William Osler Health System, which manages the two facilities, the Memorial expansion will allow patients in recovery at Brampton Civic to be transferred over so acute care beds there are freed up.

Brown has glowingly supported and endorsed the PC government’s recent 2024 budget, despite Brampton’s pre-budget submission stating the city has “56 [percent] fewer hospital beds per person than the provincial average,” and asking for “[c]ontinued support from the Ontario Government and speedy approvals” to bring Brampton a new second hospital and for the province to consider providing a planning grant for a third one. The 2024 Ontario Budget does not commit funding for Peel Memorial’s expansion or a timeline for its completion. It has not detailed any commitment to a planning grant for a third hospital in Brampton. The mayor did not respond to a request for comment from The Pointer as to why he is satisfied with the provincial budget which does not provide these details, or commit to what the City demanded. 


Carmen Gauthier (far right) said public healthcare must be protected from privitization by the PC government.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer) 


In March the Ontario Health Coalition released a damning report accusing the PC government of intentionally underfunding the public healthcare system and funnelling funds to the private sector.

The OHC report titled “Robbing the public to build the private: The Ford government’s hospital privatization scheme”, argues the Ford government is purposely underfunding public healthcare in the province while increasing investment in the private sector.

The Ford government has pulled resources away from public hospitals and given for-profit clinics a 212 percent funding increase since 2023, “from $38,693,100 in 2022-23 to $120,693,100 in 2023-24”, while public hospitals are getting “real dollar cuts”.

It highlights how despite the ban in 1971 on the expansion of private, for-profit hospitals in Ontario, under the Ford government, the last remaining facilities continue to receive funding increases using tax dollars. The Don Mills Surgical Centre received a 278.2 percent increase in funding from fiscal years 2017/18 to 2021/22, it found. At the same time, cuts to funding for public hospitals are “pushing them into service closures and deficits”. 

The report also details evidence of “policy choices of the current government that have facilitated the creation of a crisis in our public hospitals while pouring resources into private for- profit hospitals and clinics…” such as the Ford’s government funding “private hospitals at double the rate per surgery than it funds public hospitals,” and “private for-profit ophthalmology clinics across Ontario at 21 [percent] or more for each cataract surgery.”

The PCs have also refused to address for-profit staffing agencies that are “charging up to three times more than public hospitals for staff,” the report states, which have “escalated their prices by more than 70 [percent] since Ford took office, while imposing wage caps and real dollar cuts on staff in public hospitals.” It describes operating rooms in public hospitals being “closed down or unused the majority of the time,” while for-profit clinics are paid to build new privatized operating rooms, and points to underfunding and understaffing of public facilities as the catalyst for this practice. 

Navi Aujla has lived her whole life in Brampton.

“To me, it's no coincidence, in my opinion, that we're a majority visible minority, newcomer, immigrant city and that we get the lowest funding,” she told The Pointer. “I don't know what it's gonna take for the government to finally step up, all the stats are there.” Elected officials “know this is happening,” she said. 

Brampton PC MPPs Prabmeet Sarkaria (Brampton South) and Amarjot Sandhu  (Brampton West) voted against a motion in 2021 calling on the Ford government to increase its investment in Peel Memorial to bring an expansion with 850 acute beds rather than the 250 non-acute beds the PCs eventually  settled on. No funding has been committed to the project despite the PCs’ claims of building a “second hospital”. 


Following the release of the PC government’s 2024 budget, Mayor Patrick Brown is pictured with Brampton’s MPPs, who are all PCs, with his thumbs up in support of the budget which does not include funding for Peel Memorial’s Phase II expansion.

(Patrick Brown/X)


“We only have one [hospital], and…such a huge newcomer, immigrant, South Asian population. It may not be intentional, but to me it is, because how do you not know the stats, how do you not see the numbers and the demographics that live here and not put two and two together?” Aujla questioned. 

“For me, it is systemic racism because it's the community that has the most kind of vulnerable people,” she said. “We had crazy COVID outbreaks and stuff like that just because our community works more in warehouses and logistics and places where they're more vulnerable, and yet we have the lowest number of hospital beds.” 


Navi Aujla believes the neglect in healthcare infrastructure and services is a result of systemic racism.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


In Brampton, wait times at Brampton Civic for an inpatient bed in 2022-2023 averaged around 21 hours, the second highest average of the Ontario hospitals reviewed, after Etobicoke General Hospital (which is also managed by Osler), which averaged around 22 hours.

Vacancies for registered nurses at emergency departments at Brampton Civic Hospital and Etobicoke General saw the highest rates: for full-time RNs it increased more than four times, rising from 6 percent in 2019/2020, to 26 percent in 2022/2023; for part-time nurses it more than doubled since the 2019/2020 period, with just over half of part-time RN positions at Osler’s emergency departments being vacant in 2022/2023.  

Geraldine Aguiar, CEO of Caledon Community Services and leadership team member of the Metamorphosis Network, a coalition of over a hundred frontline social service organizations in Peel, spoke to demonstrators about the underfunding by the provincial government. “Our provincial government gives Peel 30, 40, 50 percent less per person than the rest of Ontario. It's just so much less and it hits hard in a region that is so diverse.” 

She highlighted how healthcare is not the “only area where Peel is shortchanged by the Ontario government,” noting a lack of assistance and funding for social housing, education, childcare and youth services and seniors’ care. “The lack of funding hurts the people who live here. Kids, families and seniors are all paying the price…”.

She said “the answer cannot be to keep ignoring peoples’ needs, raising property taxes or privatizing the services that we count on,” and that the Ontario government must “stop taking Peel for granted” and put forward adequate funding toward the Region’s needs. “Peel can’t afford to be underfunded like this much longer.” 

She noted the discrepancies despite Peel residents paying the same amount of income tax as those in other parts of the province.

Volunteers read out testimonials submitted by residents about their healthcare experiences. A Brampton resident and small business owner along with his mother were referred by their optometrist to a private clinic and were told “cataract surgeries covered by OHIP would only cover the most basic lenses and that wait times were considerable”. They were led to believe the publicly covered option was inferior to what the private sector could provide. 

“Due to my own rapidly deteriorating vision, I was anxious to proceed with the surgery,” the man wrote, detailing his personal story. The consultation did not verbally mention OHIP funded surgery options, and the clinic attempted to upsell services but admitted “there was no data to support any better outcome or discernible difference in the healing process,” for what they were offering, compared to what was covered by OHIP, after the patients questioned the offer. They rejected the upsell but still faced almost $15,000 in combined costs. 

“Upon learning that the wait times for this vital surgery were greatly exaggerated, it is undeniable that both myself and my mother could have avoided this substantial expense. Had there been more transparent communication from the referring optometrist in the private clinic about the perfectly adequate OHIP-funded options available to us, we never would have elected to give our hard earned money to an opportunistic private clinic,” the testimonial detailed. “Publicly funded healthcare is being jeopardized by our provincial government pouring money into private clinics. The predatory practices in these clinics must be stopped to protect Ontarians.” 

The demonstration included two local groups that voiced support for the ongoing healthcare crisis in Brampton and the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has seen healthcare workers there killed in inhumane conditions as they desperately struggle to care for patients. 

It was a show of solidarity with healthcare professionals working in horrific conditions as Gaza continues to be bombarded by Israeli forces in that country’s effort to root out Hamas, following the group’s October 7 terrorist attacks.  

Protestors decried the targeting of hospitals, which Israel has justified as necessary due to Hamas’s use of these facilities. This has been met with widespread outrage across the globe, by the UN and by individual governments including some that have initiated legal action against the Israeli Prime Minister for war crimes and crimes against humanity for what has been described as the indiscriminate targeting of innocent Palestinians including patients, pregnant women, children and babies. 

It was a reminder that healthcare and the right to be safe must be protected as a universal value, in Palestine, in other war torn places, and in Brampton.  


The killing of almost 35,000 people in Gaza including patients and healthcare workers was highlighted at the Brampton demonstration.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer) 


Other local organizations also came out to demonstrate, including Peel Regional Labour Council, Peel Paramedics Union, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation D19, the Council of Canadians, CUPE 1483, Labour Community Services of Peel and others. 

“We know that everybody here has a horror story of not being able to get healthcare,” Herrmann-McLeod told The Pointer. She said there are people who cannot get a family doctor, or have to face long wait times for specialists, and are unable to access the lone hospital emergency room in the city for hours, among other issues. 

Janine Herrmann-McLeod, Co-Chair of Brampton Caledon Health Coalition, says healthcare workers and patients in Brampton and Caledon continue to face a local crisis.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer) 

On May 30, BrCHC will host a trip from Bramalea City Centre to Toronto via bus to attend a march by Ontario Health Coalition from Nathan Phillips Square to Queen’s Parks. Herrmann-McLeod said rally-goers will be “telling the government exactly what we think about privitization.” She said those who want to participate in the March can sign up to attend, and that BrCHC is looking for ways to get out into the community and “tell them about the lack of healthcare in Brampton, privitization and OHIP for all.”


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