The Ontario Health Coalition wants Ontarians to get out and vote.
The coalition has organized a referendum to hear from residents about the privatization of some aspects of health care.
“This is a citizen-run referendum on the Ontario government’s plan to privatize our core public hospital services to for-profit hospitals and for-profit clinics,” the Ontario Health Coalition said on its website. “We are asking Ontarians to vote on whether or not they want our local public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics.”
Voting is open now at publichospitalvote.ca. There are also a number of in-person voting locations, which will be open on Saturday.
“Our communities have spent 100 years fundraising and volunteering to support our local public hospitals and build services closer to home. On Jan. 16, Premier Doug Ford announced plans to take thousands of surgeries and diagnostic tests out of our local public hospitals and privatize them to for-profit hospitals and clinics,” the coalition indicated. “At any time, this would be devastating to our community hospitals. Currently, with our hospitals desperately short-staffed, this will take vital nurses, health professionals, doctors and the funding for them away from our public hospitals and transfer them to for-profit clinics and hospitals, leaving our community hospitals with fewer staff, fewer services and fewer resources. Without question, this is the privatization of the core services of our local public hospitals.”
Melissa Wood, with the Sudbury Health Coalition (a subsidiary of the OHC), said the group hopes at least one million people will vote in this referendum.
“This referendum is basically about showing the Doug Ford government there are a million people in this province who don’t want the health care system to be privatized,” she said. “Hopefully that’ll give him the incentive he needs to start to repeal some bills he has passed. As Ontarians, as Canadians, we already pay for health care — we already pay taxes.”
Wood said the government plan to privatize will exclude those who cannot pay for health care services.
“It’s going to put people ahead of the queue based on affordability,” Wood said. “Who does that leave out? That leaves out people who are poor — basically anyone who can’t afford to jump the queue.”
Wood said the proposed plan is targeting those who make at least $250,000 per year.
“When they want a surgery, they want it now,” she said. “I feel they’ve had that opportunity if they want anyway, because they can afford to go to the States and they can afford to get the surgery done somewhere else, as long as they can pay for it.”
Wood also argued that with increased privatization, there will be decreased oversight. She said the Ford government is creating a slippery slope that could lead to the de-regulation of many aspects of health care, as well as many professions within the sector.
“You go into these private clinics, something happens and you get an infection, and whose responsibility is it to ensure the private clinic is doing everything properly,” she said. “Enforcement would come from Ontario Health, which would require Ontario Health to hire more people.”
Sudbury MPP Jamie West and Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas have opened their offices for voting. West is located at 555 Barrydowne Rd. and Gelinas is located in unit 15 at the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre.
There is also a voting location at 1714 Bancroft Dr. (open Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.).
As the coalition notes, space is not the issue. Funding and staffing shortfalls remain the major concerns.
“Virtually every community hospital in Ontario has operating rooms that are closed down in evenings, on weekends, for weeks or months each year, or even permanently. We have the operating rooms. Our public hospitals simply do not have the funding and support to staff them,” the OHC notes. “Ontario is dead last in Canada in funding our public hospitals. We have the lowest funding of any province in the country and the fewest nurses per patient anywhere in Canada. Even if our government funded our hospitals to the average of the rest of Canada, we would clear the backlogs and wait lists for surgeries and diagnostic tests in our local public hospitals.”