Indo-Canadians ring in New Year with mass petition against hospital

By Gurmukh Singh

Brampton (Canada), Jan 1 (IANS) Indo-Canadian residents of this `Punjabi town’ near Toronto rang in the New Year by collecting signatures against a newly opened hospital whose negligence is blamed for two deaths and a wrong operation on an elderly woman.

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Brampton, which is the fastest growing city in Canada, has about 20 percent population of Punjabi origin and two Indo-Canadian MPs in the nation’s parliament.

The signature drive was organized by Bramptonians for Better Health at city temples and mosques as people thronged the religious places to ring in the new year. The mass petition also demanded the reopening of the local Peel Memorial Hospital whose closure due to renovation led to the opening of the new hospital where these deaths occurred.

The organisers, who claim to have collected thousands of signatures, said they would forward the mass petition to the government to address the problems of “the sick hospital”.

Opened in October, Brampton Civic Hospital is under fire for the death of two Indo-Canadian men in November due to alleged negligence. Indo-Canadians were further infuriated when doctors at the hospital performed surgery on the wrong leg of a 72-year-old woman on Dec 25. They cut open her right leg when she came there for surgery on her fractured left leg.

The angry residents, who have raised millions of dollars for the construction of the hospital, had taken out one of the biggest rallies in Brampton on Dec 9 to protest against shortage of beds, doctors and long waiting periods at the hospital.

Since it is one of the first privately (under private-public partnership or P3) built hospitals in Canada that has a public health system, it has also angered individuals and organizations opposed to privatisation of health care.

Jagtar Shergill, who is co-chair of Brampton Health Coalition, told IANS that they would “expose the lies of the government by highlighting what was promised to them and what has actually been delivered”.

He said: “Initially, we were told to raise 30 percent of the total cost of Canadian $350 million to get a 608-bed hospital. But we got a hospital of just 479 beds at a cost of $890 million. The residents have yet to raise millions of dollars. There is a shortage of beds, doctors, and equipment, plus long waiting periods. That’s why two Indo-Canadians lost their lives. They died because of negligence by the hospital.

“Our demands are straight-forward: if you have taken money from us, give us what we want. It means more doctors, more nurses, more equipment and more government funds for the hospital.”

Another Indo-Canadian, who didn’t want to be identified, said: “There is a huge Jewish lobby of doctors, drug manufacturers, and insurance companies which is pushing for privatisation of health care in Canada, as it exists in the US.

“Once health care is privatised in Canada, these doctors, drug makers and insurance companies will make piles of money. So they are making this experiment in the minority-dominated area to see the reaction of the mainstream community.”

The issue is set to generate a lot of heat in the New Year as various organisations pressure the government to rescind the P3 scheme.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at [email protected])