Demonstrators take to streets around Ontario to protest health care changes
Posted: December 11, 2022
(December 12, 2022)
By: Terry Pender, The Hamilton Spectator
WATERLOO REGION — More than 100 people protested Monday along King Street in Kitchener and Waterloo against the transfer of diagnostic and surgical procedures out of publicly funded hospitals and into privately owned for-profit clinics.
Organized by the Waterloo Region Health Coalition to raise awareness of the provincial government policy to transfer services to private clinics, the protesters marched from Grand River Hospital to the public square in Waterloo.
“Today’s demonstration was all about trying to save our hospitals,” said Jim Stewart, spokesperson for the regional coalition.
Similar events took place in cities around the province, organized by the Ontario Health Coalition, which is leading the fight against what it calls the privatization of the public health care system by Doug Ford’s Conservative government.
“We are completely against this notion of transferring our surgical and diagnostic services out of our in-patient/out-patient clinics at our hospitals,” said Stewart in an interview Monday.
Some diagnostic imaging work, MRIs and CT scans, and some surgical procedures, such as cataract removal and hernia repairs, are among the services being transferred to private clinics, said Stewart.
Concerned citizens, union members and health-care workers carried signs and came from Guelph and elsewhere to take part in the demonstration.
As the hospital system strains almost beyond the breaking point by COVID-19, as well as particularly severe seasonal influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), the provincial government posted a budget surplus of more than $800 million, he said.
Instead of investing in the health-care system, the Ford government decided to transfer some services to private clinics, many of which require patients to pay much more than the fees covered by OHIP, Stewart added.
Some clinics charge $5,000 over and above OHIP coverage for cataract surgery, said Stewart, and some patients have been charged $16,000 for an operation to repair a hernia.
“It is a lot of money. And we don’t believe the people of Ontario are looking forward to medical debt,” said Stewart.
“What we are trying to do is raise awareness among the public that their hospitals are in jeopardy,” said Stewart.
“We are seeing the dismantling of our public hospitals, and nobody voted for that.”