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February 05, 2024

Letter to the Editor: Stop the secret privatization of our health care system

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The current crisis in healthcare is the result of decades of Liberal, Conservative and NDP policy decisions or indecision. The current volume, complexity and pace of changes makes it difficult for people to follow what is happening. For many, until they personally have a negative experience, these changes are invisible. People, are struggling to keep a job, find accommodation, pay rent or a mortgage, raise a family and put healthy food on the table. They do not have the emotional or physical energy to always pay attention to what is in the news. Privatization is the choice of the Doug Ford government but there are more viable and less costly solutions to the problems we face. Today I would like to discuss what has been privatized to date, violations of the Canada Health, the negative impact of Bill 60, “Privatization of Hospital Services Act.”

The following have been privatized: covid testing (formerly public health & hospitals); vaccinations (formerly public health and primary care); public hospitals’ surgeries and diagnostics (50% goal); the majority of the next generation of long-term care homes in 30 year licenses; care coordination in home care (Bill 135); clinical staff in hospitals and LTC; primary care (Shoppers opened its first wholly owned and operated health clinic in Aug. 2020 and now runs six clinics in Ont. with expansion plans, G. Weston owns Maple Virtual clinics). How long will it be before we will be asked to pay more for all of these services when the for-profit business owner is not satisfied with OHIP payments and stock holders demand more profit? It is happening already with virtual care, private surgical and diagnostic clinics, membership fees at primary care clinics, longer lists of defunded lab tests, procedures and services. If you can pay now are you sure that your children and grandchildren will be able to pay when private becomes the only option? This is about all of us not just those who can pay. The Conservative government’s relentless privatization must be stopped.

For-profit hospitals routinely violate the Canada Health Act while the government claims you will pay with your OHIP card. Common violations include: MRIs are 3-4X the OHIP cost; cataract surgery is 3-4X the OHIP cost; cataract clinics charge $100 for eye drops and $200 for measurement tests both of which are covered by OHIP; several thousands for upgraded lenses that are not necessary to fix the problem caused by the cataract. The Health Act says any medically necessary procedure cannot be charged for. The Don Mills Surgical Center was paid $1,264 for cataract surgery yet OHIP paid public hospitals $508! They also were paid $4,037 for knee surgery compared to $1,273-$1,692 for public hospitals. Why is OHIP is paying them more for the same services?

Patients are not told they are being charged for unnecessary add-ons and do not realize what is covered by OHIP. Please ask before signing a contract. For years governments have ignored the extra charges and up selling. It is too costly for individuals to take companies to court. Please contact me if you have been charged for care. We have always had unfunded sectors in health care but care based on need not the ability to pay is being seriously eroded. Polls show Ontarians value public healthcare more than any other province.

Bill 60 has removed oversight and accountability. The Premier and cabinet can licence anyone as a director of a private clinic. Two owners of a new primary care clinic previously went bankrupt, one was recently found guilty of a serious criminal offence and they have no medical background. There is no avenue to complain to the College of Physicians, so what recourse is there for the public? There is no requirement to list which clinics are private. Private hospital owners are not employees of the Ministry of Health and are not subject to Freedom of Information Requests so their financial and care records are not accessible. We do not know the details or costs of their contracts with the province. However, it is the law that every public hospital must have a FOI office where you can request financial or medical records and general hospital information. 

For Brightshores Health System you can email; FIPPA@gbhs.on.ca or call 519-376-2121 ext. 1440
Please send comments or questions to: greybrucecountyhc@gmail.com

Sincerely,

Norah Beatty
Co-chair, Grey Bruce Health Coalition

 


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