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Ontario Health Coalition tour Ontario to raise awareness about private, for-profit clinics

Posted: June 15, 2017

By Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News

A seven-foot teddy bear isn’t going to alarm anyone, but the message being delivered through the use of this prop just might.

Members of the Ontario Health Coalition made a stop in Chatham on Friday as part of its ‘We Can’t Bear to Lose Medicare’ campaign, that warns about the threat privatization poses to Canada’s universal health care system.

Peter Boyle, a volunteer OHC spokesperson, said, “there are a lot of private clinics that do legitimate work,” adding they provide services to patients and bill OHIP for payment.

However, he noted there are concerns about for-profit clinics that try to up-sell people for services that are not required.

Boyle said the OHC is releasing a major report next week on research it has been doing over the past two years on the issue.

“Canada’s public health care system is under threat by private profits-seeking clinics that want to be able to bill OHIP for tests and surgeries and bill patients hundreds or even thousands of dollars as well,” said OHC executive director Natalie Mehra in a written release.

“User fees for medically-needed hospital and physician care are unlawful under the Canada Health Act,” she added. “We are drawing attention to this, explaining to patients their rights, and pushing back against the takeover of non-profit and public hospitals by private for-profit corporations.”

Boyle said all medically-necessary treatments people need are covered by Canada’s universal healthcare program.

“Anybody charges you money (for these services), you either don’t need it, or they’re doing it illegally,” he said.

Boyle said there is a growing concern about patients being charged for services that aren’t required or needed by private clinics, but since they aren’t told that ahead of time, “you’ll feel pressure to pay.”

According to the OHC, private for-profit clinics are pushing to privatize services from local public hospitals. The group states that while the Ontario government has held out against “wholesale privatization of diagnostics and surgeries,” privatization has “crept in around the edges.”

The OHC says private clinics and extra user fees for patients have become a major problem in provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec, to the point it is threatening public health care. It cites the fact that private clinics in B.C. have even launched a court challenge to bring down the laws that protect patients from user fees in that province.

Boyle said this is an effort to create a two-tier health care system – “one for people who can pay and one for the rest of us.”

Noting there are only so many doctors and other healthcare professionals, he said private, for-profit clinics, will take away from the Canadian health care system.

The OHC’s 20-stop tour is slated to be at Wallaceburg’s Fountain Park at 10 a.m. on Saturday and at Waterfront Park in Sarnia at 1 p.m.

eshreve@postmedia.com

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