Ontario government makes more moves to privatize health care

Every Ontarian should be very afraid and very angry about Premier Doug Ford’s plan to move surgeries such as cataracts, hip and knee replacements into private for profit clinics, said Shirley Roebuck, chair of Sarnia Lambton Health Coalition.

“It is being done to help Premier Ford’s business cronies,” said Roebuck. “There is no data at all to support this move.” She calls for the provincial government to fund the public health care system instead.

Ford cited at a press conference on Monday, Jan. 16 the backlog of surgeries the Ontario health care system has accumulated since the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason to expand the number of surgeries performed in privately run, for profit clinics, but the premier said this will be a permanent move, even if the backlog is eliminated.

This will be done over three phases. The first will see surgical clinics in Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa perform an additional 14,000 cataract operations a year, representing 25 percent of Ontario’s wait list for the procedure. The next phase will have private clinics offer MRI, CT scans, colonoscopies and endoscopies. By 2024, hip and knee replacements will be performed at for profit clinics.

Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones stressed all of these procedures will be covered by OHIP and there will not be an additional cost to patients. They did not answer whether a private clinic will be allowed to upsell or offer a procedure, which is not covered by OHIP but would be a cost to the patient.

“A cataract surgery takes seven minutes,” said Roebuck. “There is no reason it can’t be done within the walls of a public hospital.” She is afraid extra costs will be charged to OHIP by the private facilities. She knows of an individual who had a hernia operation at a private facility. He spent three days at the private facility in recovery. Roebuck, who previously worked as a registered nurse, said this type of recovery time was common years ago, but is not the practice today. She feels these private clinics will charge extra administration or registration fees to either OHIP or to patients.

She is also afraid the best doctors and nurses may go to the private clinics, as they may offer better salaries and work schedules.

“Every person in this province should be against private health care,” said Roebuck. She urged residents to contact their local MPP and voice their displeasure. The Ontario Healthcare Coalition also launched its Fight Back campaign last March against the Ford government’s privatization of healthcare plans.

Blake Ellis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent