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Ontario health care expired

Care, not profit. Defend public health care in Ontario

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” It’s a maxim that has been part of the 1%’s playbook for years. And Doug Ford is trying to put it to work privatizing health care.

Our hospitals are undeniably in crisis. This week, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) announced they are bringing in the Red Cross to help with staffing amidst an unprecedent surge in pediatric patients. Throughout the province, hospitals are struggling with overflowing pediatric ICUs, closed emergency rooms, and critical shortages of health care workers.

Doug Ford has seized on the crisis to expand the scope of privatization in Ontario’s health care system. Despite repeated pre-election promises that they would not expand private health care, the Conservatives have proceeded to divert resources from public hospitals to for-profit clinics and privatized long-term care, home care, COVID-19 vaccinations, surgeries, and diagnostics while depressing wages in the public sector and failing to boost frontline staffing.

While health care workers’ unions have called for an emergency plan to shore up staffing levels, Ford’s plan seems to be to let the crisis fester so long that people throw up their hands and embrace anything presented as an alternative to “the status quo.”

Privatization is a threat to public health care

Despite being touted as the solution to our health care system in crisis, privatization is a great threat to public health care. It creates two tiers of care, where those who can afford to pay more receive better, faster service, while underfunded public hospitals reach capacity and underpaid, over-worked health care workers face critical levels of burnout. For-profit care widens the inequity gap and disproportionately affects lower-income, racialized, remote, and rural communities.

Meanwhile, for-profit clinics line the pockets of their stakeholders through exorbitant fees, double billings, medically unnecessary add-ons, and essentially anything else they can get away with. For-profit health care providers have no place in the delivery of health care. They will only draw resources out of the public health care system and make existing problems worse.

The five major unions, representing over 295,000 health care workers, as well as the Ontario Health Coalition, have warned that two-tier health delivery will make staffing shortages, wait times, and patient outcomes even worse by creating competition for scarce staff and pulling them out of the public system, where wages have been cut.

The current health care crisis has been decades in the making. Tammy DeGiovanni of CHEO said, “The health system for kids has been undersized [since] long before we heard of COVID, and long before we had this current respiratory surge.” Following the neoliberal playbook, Ontario governments over the last 20 years have repeatedly attacked public health care with cuts, let the quality of care decline, and attempted to privatize these services in the name of efficiency.

It’s time we come together and demand our government put care before profit. We must push back against the latest profit-driven effort to privatize health care in Ontario and demand the government fix the crisis in our hospitals through investments in our public health care, boosting staffing, and collaboration with the federal government on long-term solutions like national pharmacare. 

The Ontario Health Coalition is launching a major campaign, hosting protests and townhalls across the province to unite the fight against privatization.

Vi Bui

Vi Bui is the Ontario, Quebec, Nunavut Regional Organizer at the Council of Canadians.

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