Health care activists in the Ontario province of Canada expressed concern over the alleged plans of premier Doug Ford to privatize health care services in the upcoming State budget. Ontario Health Coalition, a health rights group, and the Ontario Federation of Labour gave a joint call for pre-budget rallies in the coming weeks throughout the province, urging people not to tolerate any attempts at privatization and cuts in public health care. “Canadians need to stand up in resistance and solidarity and safeguard our public health care,” they said. The events will be held in Dryden (Jan. 21), Timmins (Jan. 22), Ottawa (Jan. 23), Sarnia (Jan. 24), Kitchener-Waterloo (Jan. 25) and Peterborough (Jan. 28).
The Ontario Health Coalition also stated that “at the same time as promising to end hallway medicine and adequately fund health care in Canada, Doug Ford’s government is holding backroom meetings and negotiating contracts to privatize hospitals and expand private clinics in violation of the Canada Health Act”.
For years, the Ontario health care system has been sarcastically dubbed “hallway medicine” because throughout the province, doctors and nurses rely on hallways to handle the overflow from overcrowded patient wards.
On the one hand, Ford has vowed to resolve this issue. The Star reported that on January 7, Doug Ford sent a new year greetings letter to public sector employees in the State, in which he emphasized that “he came into office with a clear blueprint to end hallway health care”. He also told the bureaucrats that health minister Christine Elliott is working hard to protect the public healthcare system, and that his government “will continue to ensure the necessary funding for world-class health care in Ontario.”
At the same time, there are concerns about what Ford really intends to do. In another report in The Star on January 9, columnist Bob Hepburn said that a major campaign was underway inside and outside the premier’s office to develop a two-tier system of health care in Ontario. The new system will give way to more specialized private clinics where doctors can charge the patients at their discretion. Hepburn claimed that Ford’s accomplices had held closed-door meetings with private healthcare lobbyists in places like the Albany Club in downtown Toronto.
Major financial powers in Toronto, who are financing a private suit which challenges British Columbia’s public health care, are also eyeing a similar move in Ontario. They are aiding campaigns which magnify deficiencies in the current health care facilities in the State to paint a picture of it being inefficient. Such campaigns are intended to rally people’s support for allowing private investment in health care in the garb of improvement. Private insurance companies are also in the fray, sensing an opportunity for huge profits.
On December 16, 2018, while addressing a public meeting organized by the GTA West Club of the Communist Party of Canada, Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said, “We have to build mass actions to stop this government whenever it introduces any cut to our health care, and we will not stop until we stop them”.
Meanwhile, City News reported that hospitals are seeking more funds from the Ontario government, a 3.45% budget increase, or about USD 656 million, just to maintain the current level of service.