Health-care advocacy group to hold vote in response to Ford’s move to allow private clinic procedures
Posted: April 19, 2023
(April 18th, 2023)
By: CBC News
As the province looks to deliver more health-care services through private providers, the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) is launching a community-led vote on what it sees as the privatization of health-care. The unofficial referendum will be held across Ontario with over 1,000 polling stations on May 26 and 27, said Tracey Ramsey, co-chair of the Windsor Health Coalition, the advocacy group’s chapter in Windsor Residents will also have the opportunity to vote online starting May 2. Anyone over 16 years old can vote in the referendum. The ballot will ask “Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics? Yes or no.”
“People really cherish our health-care system and we know that,” said Ramsey, a former NDP MP. “Any time Canadians are polled on whether or not they want to keep public health-care is overwhelmingly the case that they do.” In late February, Ontario tabled legislation to allow more private clinics to offer certain publicly funded surgeries and procedures. The government says the plan is aimed at reducing backlogs and wait times.
The coalition says this amounts to the privatization of our health-care system, though Premier Doug Ford has stressed that health care will remain free. “I don’t even like the word ‘private’ because it’s really not,” Ford said in January. “No Ontarian will ever have to pay with a credit card. They will pay with their OHIP card.”
The move has sparked concern about clinics “upselling” patients, pressuring them to select services that cost more than what is covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. Under the legislation, clinics won’t be allowed to refuse service to patients who opt for the OHIP-only service, and they won’t be allowed to charge patients an additional fee to get services faster than other people.
One of Ramsey’s concerns is that the health-care system will be under further strain once health-care workers spread throughout public and private hospitals. “The plan of removing core services out of the hospital … it will drain health-care workers from our hospitals here and we need more health-care workers here, not less,” she said.
Previous community referendums have seen participation of 100,000 people across Ontario, according to co-chair of the Windsor Health Coalition Patrick Hannon. “We’re hoping that with the extensive reach and the online voting, we will top 200,000,” he said. April Ellis, a volunteer with the OHC, said the provincial government should be investing in public health care instead.
“Privatizing core public hospital services is a dangerous route to go in the province right now. We’re looking at ramping up taxpayer funding going directly to private clinics, whereas our public hospitals remain underfunded,” she said.
CBC Windsor reached out to MPP Anthony Leardi for comment, but he was unable to comment before publication. Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Andrew Dowie said in December that said a private ophthalmology clinic that opened in Windsor in partnership with Windsor Regional Hospital, called the Windsor Surgical Centre, is “the future of health care.” Such facilities, he said, complement existing resources and ultimately allow the province to deliver more health care. “That’s what we’re all about. You will get … the service you need. Doesn’t matter who operates it, doesn’t matter how it is delivered, it will be delivered thanks to your OHIP premium and the public system.”
Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) put out a statement in January in support of the provincial government’s move, saying it would “make it easier and faster for people to access the publicly funded surgeries and procedures they need.” In a news release, they called back to when “cataract surgeries were being conducted in a small unit in the corner of the basement of Ouellette Campus.” In 2022, when the Windsor Surgical Centre opened, they said they were able to alleviate the demand. “If we didn’t do this, our wait list for cataracts would have been insurmountable,” said WRH CEO David Musyj in the release. “An opportunity came up for us to move this outside of the hospital. We got it done quickly and it hasn’t missed a beat.”
With files from Dale Molnar, the Canadian Press and Mike Crawley