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98% of London voters oppose Ontario’s privatization health care plan

Posted: May 31, 2023

(May 30, 2023)

By: Amy Simon, Global News London

When asked “Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics?” Roughly 98 per cent of voters in London, Ont., said no.

That’s according to the results from the province-wide citizen-run referendum that was launched last month against the government’s plan to privatize public health care.

On Tuesday morning, the London Health Coalition announced that of the 15,483 residents who filled out a ballot both in person and online, 15,305 Londoners said they were against Bill 60.

According to the local coalition, only 178 residents voted “yes,” equaling roughly two per cent of the Forest City’s balance.

“That puts us in about the top five communities in the province that voted on this,” said Peter Bergmanis, co-chair of the London Health Coalition. “We’re incredibly happy (and) we work really hard to get the word out.”

The Ontario Health Coalition launched the referendum last month, saying that “Ontarians were never given the opportunity to voice their opinion as to whether public hospital services should be contracted out at taxpayer expense to for-profit private clinics.”

“The referendum offered Ontario voters a genuine opportunity to tell their politicians how they feel about handing over their public hospital services to for-profit providers,” the statement from the coalition read.

Following the winter break, the Ford government tabled legislation to expand the private delivery of public health care by “funding clinics to perform more cataract surgeries, MRI and CT scans, colonoscopies, and hip and knee replacements,” among others.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Minister of Health told Global News that Bill 60, or the Your Health Act, which was passed earlier this month, aims to reduce wait times and surgical backlogs while protecting the stability of front-line workers.

“Bill 60 also strengthens the already robust framework for the oversight of community and surgical diagnostic centres, including a provision to bring these centres under the oversight of a patient ombudsman, and puts into law that Ontarians will always access insured services at community surgical and diagnostic centres with their OHIP card and never their credit card, consistent with the Canada Health Act.”

The ministry added that further leveraging community and surgical diagnostic centres is in addition to the nearly $1 billion the government has invested in public hospitals through the Surgical Recovery Fund.

“This fund remains available to hospitals and can be used to extend operating room hours on the weekend and weekdays. Our plan has already reduced the surgical backlog to pre-pandemic levels,” the spokesperson wrote.

“Ontario is proud to continue to have one of the largest publicly funded health-care systems in the world, a system that we are investing nearly $80 billion in this year.”

But Allene Scott, a local volunteer who was stationed at one of the in-person polling stations in Aylmer, Ont., this past weekend, said that many residents were unaware of the Your Health Act.

“A lot of people didn’t know about this a month ago, and now that they’re finding out, they’re feeling hurt, angry and betrayed,” she told Global News. “Many said they’re feeling let down and worried about their own future health care.”

Local health and labour officials stressed that the public health-care system should remain essential and accessible to all.

“I think the government was hoping that they wouldn’t have to talk about this,” Bergmanis said. “We’ve just created a hive of bees that Doug (Ford) can’t eat, and this is going to happen.”

When asked if the work down through the referendum over the month of May would hold a significant impact on the progression of Bill 60, Bergmanis said he “stakes his reputation on it.”

He adds that “the voices of residents will be heard” as all ballots are set to be delivered to Queens Park Wednesday.

“We have the people on our side, they know we have the people on our side, and this government is now put on notice that they are going to have a heck of a three-year term if they choose to continue to implement Bill 60,” he said.

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