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'Incomprehensible': Health coalition rallies against privatization

'It’s a slippery slope and we are gravely concerned with the provincial government’s plan to convert our local hospitals' core services into for-profit hospitals and clinics,' says co-chair

The Simcoe County Health Coalition (SCHC) brought its call to action to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie this afternoon.

Members of the SCHC, which is a local grassroots organization whose goal is to protect and improve Ontario's health-care system, were joined by current and retired health-care workers as they set up at the corner of Gallie Court and Georgian Drive in an effort to bring attention to what they say is the provincial government’s plan to privatize health care, 

“We are launching a campaign Ontario-wide for a public, citizen-run referendum regarding the privatization of our hospital services,” explained Anisa Carrascal, co-chair of SCHS and a registered nurse, adding Tuesday’s event also served as a call to action to get Ontarians to vote and get involved.

“We have to keep services public because of equality and the future of our children," she said. "We are going to be elderly one day, too, and we know what happened with private, long-term, health-care centres."

There is a wide variety of reasons to keep services public, Carrascal said.

“The care standards in public services are much higher than in private services right now, especially (if) they pass Bill 60," she said. "That would essentially lower the standard of care, the accountability measures and even information access … it will not be the same if Bill 60 passes and the government manages to start privatizing services this way.”

Today was simply the first step in the coalition’s efforts to bring attention to the issue, Carrascal said.

“There’s so much more next. We need to stop it now before it becomes a two-tiered system," she said. "We are calling on Simcoe County residents to take action, because it’s our health that matters.”

During Tuesday's news conference, Carrascal said during the 12 years she’s been working as a registered nurse she has seen nurse-to-patient ratios grow to “unattainable numbers.” She says she has also witnessed many co-workers suffer injuries due to departments being understaffed, as well as health-care workers experiencing burnout and leaving the profession in droves.

“The privatization of hospitals will make it easier for clinics to up-sell patients on surgeries and diagnostics right here in Canada," she said. "Patients in Ontario are increasingly reporting exorbitant extra charges for their needed health care, including access to doctors, tests and surgeries — things for which no patient in Canada should ever be charged.

"It’s a slippery slope and we are gravely concerned with the provincial government’s plan to convert our local hospitals' core services into for-profit hospitals and clinics," Carrascal added. 

Bill 60 is expected to pass even though Ontarians have not had any input on the plan, she said. The coalition, along with other counterparts across the province, is organizing more than 1,000 voting stations across Ontario and will hold its own referendum on May 26 and May 27. Online voting will also be available.

University student Jared Norris, who attended today's event, said he believes the provincial government is preying on the apathy of many Ontarians and their lack of understanding about how the system works in its efforts to pass Bill 60.

“I think it’s ridiculous that Ford is defunding our health care and attempting to privatize it," he said. "I don’t know how any self-respecting Canadian could possibly support this. It feels like part of our national identity that we have better health care than the United States and the idea of it being privatized … and having to deal with the same nonsense I know people in the U.S. have to deal with …. is almost incomprehensible to me.

"I just don’t think most Canadians think that it’s possible here," Norris added. "We take these things for granted."

Since being re-elected in June 2022, the coalition points out the Progressive Conservative government has made multiple announcements that point to a move to privatization of health care, including sending $18 million to private clinics to perform more routine minimally invasive surgeries to work to clear the surgical backlog, spending $1 billion to pay private home care services and investing public funds into privately owned long-term care homes.

More information on the Ontario Health Coalition can be found by clicking here.


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About the Author: Nikki Cole

Nikki Cole has been a community issues reporter for BarrieToday since February, 2021
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