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Thousands attended Queen’s Park to protest health care privatization in Ontario

Posted: September 26, 2023

(September 25 2023)

By: Beth Macdonell, CTV News Toronto

Thousands of protesters gathered on the lawn of Queen’s Park Monday afternoon to show their opposition to the privatization of healthcare as the legislature resumes following a summer break.

The protest was organized by the Ontario Health Coalition, an organization dedicated to protecting public health care. The group says some 4,000 people arrived at the site by way of approximately 70 buses from around the province, including North Bay, Sudbury, Cornwall and Niagara.

Organizers estimate attendance at Thursday’s event reached between 5,000 and 10,000.

“It’s the opening day of the legislature so we want to send a very strong message that sets the tone for this legislative session, the Ford government has no mandate to privatize. No one got to vote on that,” Ontario Health Coalition Executive Director Natalie Mehra told CTV News Toronto.

The Ontario government passed a bill in the spring which allows private clinics to conduct more OHIP-covered surgeries and procedures in a bid to free up health-care capacity.

Premier Doug Ford, however, has previously insisted that Ontarians will continue to be able to access health care using their OHIP card and has rejected concerns that the legislation will lead to a privatization of health care.

Mehra said that those at the protest includes patients, doctors, nurses and union members who believe the Ford government is dismantling local public hospitals in favour of privatizing them.

“More than 500 emergency department closures,” she said. “Dozens of birthing units in public hospitals, ICUs working terribly short staffed, dangerously short staffed, and yet they are shunting literally hundreds of millions of dollars of public money over to private-for-profit clinics to privatize our hospitals.”

Also in the attendance is a contingent from the Minden, Ont. area, who had their local hospital close in June.

“The impact has been horrendous,” said Bonnie Rowe who is the chair of the Haliburton Highlands Long-Term Care Coalition.

Rowe said nearest hospital is now a 25 minute-drive away.

“In a cardiac arrest, those minutes count.”

In a statement provided to CTV News Toronto on Monday, a spokesperson for Minister of Health Sylvia Jones said that the Ontario government is “proud to have one of the largest publicly funded healthcare systems in the world.”

“Since 2018 we have grown our health care workforce by over 63,000 nurses and 8,000 new physicians and built 3,500 hospital beds across the province,” they said.

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