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Kingston-area residents vote ‘no’ to health-care privatization

Posted: May 31, 2023

(May 30, 2023)

By: Meghan Balogh, Kingston Whig-Standard

More than 10,000 residents in the Kingston region voted against privatizing health care during a provincewide referendum vote organized by the Ontario Health Coalition.

During the voting process on May 26 and 27, Ontarians were asked at more than 1,000 polling stations across the province: “Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics?”

According to a news release from the Kingston Health Coalition on Tuesday, 10,394 regional residents answered “no” to that question, 138 voted “yes” and 10 ballots were spoiled.

“The local results show that our community is united in opposition to the government plans to move work out of our public non-profit hospitals into for-profit corporate clinics,” Joan Jardin, co-chair of the Kingston Health Coalition, said in a written statement.

“Our community understands that there is space in the public system to improve care for patients. There are many innovative ideas, great staff and wonderful communities and volunteers that can be mobilized to support non-profit care. The real problems start with a lack of government will, systemic underfunding and a 30-year push to for-profit corporations to deliver health care while causing significant staff reductions in the public system. Further privatization will only make the problems worse.”

The Kingston Health Coalition polled residents in Kingston, Sydenham, Verona and Napanee on May 26 and 27.

“The people of Ontario do not want our health-care system privatized,” Kingston Health Coalition co-chair Ross Sutherland told the Whig-Standard on Tuesday morning.

Sutherland said that being out in the community administering the voting process was “an amazing experience.”

“We talked to so many people,” he said. “It was a wonderful community education and engagement process.”

The Ontario Health Coalition and its community chapters have been vocally critical of the Ontario government’s ongoing plan to integrate private, for-profit clinics into the province’s public health system to address surgical wait times.

In recent weeks, the Ontario government passed Bill 60, the Your Health Act, which will enlist more private medical clinics to offer publicly funded surgeries for cataracts and hip and knee replacements, as well as diagnostic imaging and testing.

Sutherland said that privatizing only divides an already strained system that is experiencing growing staffing shortages.

“It’s a huge problem that is made worse by privatization,” he said. “We don’t have enough staff in general. If you divide that staff by two different systems, that staff is used inefficiently, and I think everyone recognizes that as a problem. … These clinics don’t create more staff. They take staff from hospitals.”

While partnering with private clinics may seem to take the pressure off wait lists, Sutherland said that running concurrent private and public systems further prevents wait-list integration.

“Wait times have been a problem for a long time,” he said. “(With privatization) you end up with a public list and a private list, and lists within both those systems with surgeons. There is no efficiency within that process.”

The Ontario Health Coalition will announce its provincewide voting results on Wednesday. Once that happens, representatives will deliver those results to Queen’s Park.

“We want to make this pressure strong enough that not only this government but future governments say that our public health-care system needs to work for people, and it needs to be in the non-profit sector, and that’s how we will be the best integrated, the most efficient and the most responsive, with the best quality and the most accessible,” Sutherland said. “That’s what we want, and I think that’s also what’s supported by all the signs in the research.”

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