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Wage Slave News


Toronto The Good

28 October 2007

“Homeless Denied Health Care” screamed the September 19th headlines of The Toronto Star, a paper noted for its reformist zeal. The article, by Michele Henry, informed its readers that, according to a ‘recent survey’, Toronto’s homeless are four times more likely to be refused medical care without a health card, which is an increase of 28% from 1992, the last time a survey of street health care was taken.

“It’s appalling”, says Erica Khandor, a street health researcher. “In fifteen years, nothing has gotten better for the homeless and many, many things have gotten far worse.”

Toronto’s homeless population has more than tripled since 1992 says the study, which surveyed 368 homeless adults. This was conducted recently by Street Health, a clinic that offers health care to the homeless and the Wellesley Institute, a non-profit organization that does research on urban issues.

According to the survey, homeless people are 29 times more likely to have hepatitis C, 20 times more likely to have epilepsy, 5 times more likely to have heart disease, 4 times more likely to have cancer, 3.5 times more likely to have asthma, 3 times more likely to have arthritis, and twice as likely to have diabetes than the general population. In the past year, one in three homeless people have been beaten and one in five homeless women have been raped. About 6500 slept in shelters last year, compared to 1900 in the early 1990s.

However, in contrast to the above statistics, the capitalist press tells us the economy is booming, the Canadian dollar is up, and unemployment is down. And just what does the study suggest should be done about poverty? Among its recommendations are:

Raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour and increase the availability
of affordable housing, which is pure genius to someone unemployed.

The homeless spend, on average, 4.6 years on waiting lists for subsidized housing according to the study. Kathy Hardhill, Outreach nurse and an author of the original study, says the decreased access to health care is one of the study’s most shocking findings. “ Significant barriers to health care have been erected in the past fifteen years”, she says, “including a clampdown on invalid health cards. Even though The Ministry of Health set up health kiosks in 1992 in response to the original study, the homeless often don’t have the identification needed to apply. ”Hardhill’s final comment is the most significant, “This whole idea of universality of health care in Toronto is nothing but a myth if you are homeless.”

The most significant aspect of all is the question the survey doesn’t ask, which is “why?”

When one is employed making profit for the capitalist class, they will put some money aside from your wages (which in Ontario is called OHIP) so that, once ill, you can soon get the attention you require and, hopefully, will be quickly back at work making more profit for them. Occasionally, well-meaning people in power initiate reform measures to assist the unemployed and the homeless, but the reforms, at best, fall short and, at worse, are total failures because they do not and cannot solve the problem.

Ownership of the tools of production and the world’s natural resources by a minority of the world’s population create the great social problems that we face today and with which the reformers constantly grapple. Since these reformers accept the status quo, they are condemned like Sisyphus to roll a great weight uphill only to see it roll down again. In a socialist society, where all will stand equal in relation to the tools of production, there will be no unemployment, no one will be homeless and no one will be denied medical attention because the wealth of society will be distributed through a system of free access to all goods and services produced.

Who wouldn’t want it?

So why not work politically and consciously for that end?

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