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A province wide citizen led referendum hopes to garner one million votes

Posted: May 5, 2023

(May 4th, 2023)

By: Blake Ellis, The Independent

The Sarnia Lambton Health Care Coalition is holding a citizen-led referendum on May 26 and 27 in a province-wide effort to send a message to the government of Ontario Premier Doug Ford to stop privatizing health services. Chair Shirley Roebuck, Co-Chair June Weiss, and Executive Member Lorraine Cameron officially launched the effort in front of the Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital in Petrolia April 18. The Sarnia Lambton Health Care Coalition has asked several businesses and organizations to set up voting locations throughout the county. Heidi’s Your Independent Grocer will have the one voting station in Petrolia.

Recently, Lambton County councillors supported the Ontario Health Coalition privatization vote urging citizens in the area to cast a ballot. Roebuck hopes as many as one million Ontarians vote no to privatization across the province. The results will be presented to the Ontario government.

This effort comes after the Ford announced the government has plans to have 14,000 cataract surgeries conducted in private facilities. This is 25 percent of the wait list created during the pandemic. The next phase of the government’s plan will have private clinics offer MRI, CT scans, colonoscopies and endoscopies, with hips and knee surgeries in private clinics by 2024. The province plans private facilities in Windsor, Waterloo and Ottawa as cataract centres.

Roebuck said there could be a disruption when the private clinics open, as she suspects private clinic staff will be paid higher and might be poached from the public sector system. She pointed to Riverside campus of the Ottawa Hospital. “There are some strange partnerships being built,” said Roebuck. CBC reported a group of surgeons are performing hip and knee surgeries Saturdays in operating rooms, which are not being used by the hospitals.

It is not clear how these surgeons are paying for the use of the operating rooms, equipment and supplies. Registered nurses who agree to work on Saturdays are being offered double then what they would normally make. Roebuck said this higher level of pay being offered to staff in a private setting could make it more difficult for the public system to fill jobs. This might affect services at CEEH. Bluewater Health operates the The Pat Mailloux Eye Centre at CEEH. It performs 1,300 cataract surgeries annually, operating only two days a week.

Officials there say they have no plans to scale back services at the clinic. The Mailloux Clinic operates with existing hospital staff. While the private clinics set up, Dr. Michel Haddad, Bluewater Health’s chief of staff, says they’re trying to ramp up the services in Petrolia to provide 300 more operations a year.

Meantime, Cameron, a mother of three from Corunna, spoke about when her daughter was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sarnia. Hours after her birth, she was transferred to Children’s Hospital in London, because it was found the baby had neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer.

“Our daughter spent 48 days in hospital, 17 of those in the paediatric critical care unit,” said Cameron. “For the next eight months, she spent four days each month in hospital receiving chemotherapy treatments.

“We did not worry if we could afford to have our child’s illness treated,” said Cameron. “We did not worry if medical debt would bankrupt our family.”

She called on the government to maintain single-tier publicly funded health care in Ontario.

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