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Grey-Bruce group against health-care privatization having online town hall

Posted: May 2, 2023

(May 1, 2023)

By: Rob Gowan, Owen Sound Sun Times

A Grey-Bruce group that is part of a provincewide movement to hold a referendum against the privatization of some public healthcare services is holding an online town hall meeting.

The Grey Bruce County Health Coalition is holding the town hall meeting on Zoom Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m.

The focus of the town hall is to inform the public about the Ontario Health Coalition’s Stop the Privatization of Hospital Services campaign. The coalition, with local chapters across the province, is planning a referendum on May 26 and 27 when it hopes to get 1 million votes provincewide. The question to be asked: “Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics?” In February the government introduced Bill 60, Your Health Act, which it has said is part of its plan to reduce wait times for surgeries, procedures and diagnostic imaging.

Currently in its third reading, the bill will allow hospitals to approve the outsourcing of some surgeries and diagnostic procedures to private medical clinics.

Grey-Bruce coalition co-chair Norah Beatty said in an e-mail that the purpose of the referendum is to put pressure on the Doug Ford government to change direction.

“In particular, we want to explain the effect privatization will and is having on small, rural communities and hospitals,” said Beatty, who co-chairs the local committee with Brenda Scott of Chesley.

Thursday’s town hall is to include Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, Dr. Martin McNamara of Midland and Kincardine Mayor Kenneth Craig.

Beatty highlighted the recently announced plans to permanently close the ER at the hospital in Minden, leaving the closest ER available about 25 kilometres away in Haliburton. The residents of the Minden community are rallying to fight the closure.

“This could happen elsewhere.

Our public healthcare is facing privatization by a thousand incremental cuts,” said Beatty.

“Once services are pulled out of public hospitals and sent to increased numbers of private labs and clinics etc., there is less reason to keep a small public hospital operating.”

The government has said that under its plan the care at the centres will be covered by OHIP and be publicly-funded. But critics are concerned the bill will lead to taxpayers paying more for the services performed at the clinics and will lead to the clinics trying to convince patients to pay for additional services not covered by OHIP.

In an e-mail on Thursday from Hanna Jensen, press secretary for Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Sylvia Jones, it said “Ontarians will always use their OHIP card to get the care they need, when they need it.”

“Ontario is proud to have one of the largest publicly funded healthcare systems in the world, a system we are investing nearly $80 billion in this year,” Jensen’s e-mail said. “Premier Ford and Minister Jones have been clear, Ontarians will always access our healthcare system with their OHIP card, not their credit card.”

With wait times for surgeries and diagnostic tests increasing “year after year,” the government is not OK with the status quo and knows more work needs to be done, the statement said.

“That is why, two months ago our government launched Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care which includes our innovative plan to eliminate the surgical backlog and reduce wait time to connect Ontarians to more convenient care closer to home,” Jensen said.

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