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Ontario can stop privatization of universal health care

Posted: March 4, 2023

(March 2, 2023)

By: Doreen Nicoll, Small Change

“In 1986 medical specialists in Ontario began illegal extra billing. They made general per visit charges as well extra charges for procedures and for miscellaneous items such as storing charts. Everyone was pissed off!” Elka Enola told Small Change.

Enola, a retired teacher went on to say, “Every member of the Assembly was affected either personally or via their family. Not a single MA spoke up or asked a meaningful question. When I started asking around, I learned that people were afraid of being targeted by the medical profession. Especially fearful were pregnant women who were concerned that their doctor would be ‘busy’ when the time came for the birth.”

The feminist actionist realized the only way to challenge extra billing was by specific cases listing dates and names coming before the Legislature.

Enola recognized that no one wanted their name, medical information and doctor’s name made public.

“I was dealing with a urinary problem and was referred to an excellent surgeon, who attempted to extra bill me for each visit and for surgery. I refused,” shared Enola.

Instead, she submitted the bills from her doctor. She named names and gave all of the personal information that was required.

According to Enola, “The issue was now on the floor for debate and in Hansard for all to see.”

Suddenly, the extra billing ended.

Enola went on to be interviewed by CBC and CTV as well as the Toronto Star which ran a half page article on November 1, 1986 and cited under the photo of Enola, “Elka Enola, Thornhill teacher, questioned bill for uninsured services and didn’t pay.”

Enola bravely started the procedures while still under the care of this surgeon and before her operation. Needless to say, the surgeon was furious with her.

Enola acknowledges, “The difference now is that they are using the Trump process. Doctors look for legal holes. Instead of fighting existing laws they look for areas not covered by the law. Our laws and regulations have many areas in which contemporary medical practices are not mentioned, especially not-in-person activities.”

Enol went on to say, “All they have to do is get a foothold. Get something accepted for extra billing and they are away to the races and we will automatically have a two-tired system. Then, just watch them entrench it.”

The octogenarian is spot on! That is the Ford government’s ultimate goal.

In fact, Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones are opening the door even wider for Ontario to offer health care for some, but not for all – which was Tommy Douglas’ dream.

Jones introduced Bill 60 last week that expands private, for-profit clinics, claiming it is a bold, innovative and creative move.

Ironically named, Your Health Act, would enshrine the Ford government’s plans to allow for-profit clinics to perform OHIP-covered surgeries and diagnostic procedures.

The bill has passed two readings and is now at committee before proceeding to a third reading and vote.

The legislation lets for-profit clinics to upsell patients, aka clients/customers, offering services that are not covered by OHIP.

The lack of oversight to ensure transparency for these extra charges and additional private services will ultimately decimate the public system by drawing staff from the public system.

Ford has underspent on health care by nearly $900 million while claiming the health care system is in crisis and unable to deal with backlogs.

Privatization is not the answer because under whose watch is privatization of necessary health care innovative or even reasonable?

Ontario Health Coalition sent out an appeal when almost 100 emergency departments had closures across Ontario. And. if the Ford government continues to enforce Bill 124 while funnelling millions into for-profit corporations to privatize the public hospital services the crisis will only get worse.

Welland, Ontario experienced the most recent close of its hospital, while Ottawa, Ontario made available operating rooms for the Academic Orthopedic Surgical Associates of Ottawa to rent on Saturdays despite the operating room being closed on weekends due to lack of funding.

According to Enola, “Our public hospitals are in an unprecedented crisis. The Ford government has done substantially nothing to help them. Instead, they have funnelled millions into for-profit corporations to privatize our public hospital services.”

The Ford government plans to dismantle local public hospitals by delegating the profitable services out of universal health care. Rural folk will need to find their way to urban centres for care rather than local hospitals. This despite Ford claiming that new hospitals will be constructed to deal with the backlogs while established hospitals face closures.

Ultimately, Enola believes, “We must force the Ford government to address the crisis and take urgent action to support our local public hospitals. We can do this, but everyone needs to help make it happen.

Anyone who thinks they [private, for-profit health care] don’t have various models ready, depending on the circumstances, is very naïve.”

For a list of local Ontario Health Coalitions click here.

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