Health coalition to hold vote on privatization of health care

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Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative

The Ontario Health Care Coalition wants to hold a province-wide plebiscite on the privatization of Ontario’s health care system.

It is planned for May 26 and 27.

Shirley Roebuck, president of the Sarnia-Lambton Health Care Coalition hosted a news conference Saturday. She said the vote would be like a very visible petition and political action on Premier Doug Ford’s government actions to further privatize the health care system.

Ford announced in January over 14,000 cataract surgeries would be done in private facilities, about 25 per cent of the wait list created during the pandemic.

The next phase will have private clinics offer MRI, CT scans, colonoscopies and endoscopies, with hip and knee surgeries by 2024.

Ford has said this will be a permanent move even after the wait times have been eliminated

Roebuck was concerned what these move will mean to smaller hospitals in Ontario including the Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital in Petrolia.

“The availability of local services are going to be taken away and we are going to pay for it,” said Roebuck. She said these private clinics will not be in Sarnia-Lambton but will be in Windsor, Waterloo and Ottawa for the cataract surgeries

“The bottom line is the government is refusing to resource the public system,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. Mehra said Ontario is funding its hospital system at the lowest rate of any province or territory in the country.

The government has also under spent its health care budget by $1 billion, she says. It will spend $24 million to move cataract surgery into private clinics.

While the Health Minister Sylvia Jones and Ford say the procedures at private clinics will be covered by OHIP, the health coalition worries the clinics will upsell and bill extra fees to patients.

While a cataract surgery costs $550 under OHIP, these facilities have been known to charging $2,000 for the same procedure, officials say. “The private model would drive up costs,” said Mehra.

Roebuck worries many health care professionals will go to the private system because of better wages and work schedules, further gutting the public system.

The proposed province-wide plebiscite will be organized by the coalition and manned by volunteers. Ballot boxes could be set up in churches, Legions and corner stores across Ontario.

There are approximately 15 million people in Ontario. It is hoped the plebiscite will garner one million votes against the privatization of the health care system.

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