Privatization of Healthcare in Ontario - Part 1

Privatization of Healthcare in Ontario – Part 1

Medicare is a publicly funded single-payer system that is a source of national pride in Canada.  Proponents of privatization of healthcare believe that private healthcare should be allowed to operate alongside Canada’s publicly funded Medicare. Among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and  Development (OECD) countries with publicly funded healthcare Canada is considered middle of the road with a 70% :30% public-private split of healthcare expenditures. It was not that long ago that virtually all Canadian medical care existed in the public sphere. Further privatization of Canada’s healthcare system will siphon talent and resources away from Canada’s already overstretched public health system. Many advocates of further privatization of healthcare argue that private healthcare should be allowed to operate alongside Canada’s public funded Medicare system.

Ontarians should be aware and concerned about the continuation of privatization of social and public services that the Ford government continues to impose on the public.  The government continues to claim that privatization will save taxpayers money, although there is abundant evidence that privatization does not save money, and that it almost always results in a lower quality of service. Some examples of privatization by the current provincial government include the contracting out of the care co-ordination role for home care and the continuation of privatization of long-term care homes. The Ford government is currently in the process of privatizing 18,000 long-term care beds over the next thirty (30) years. They have also passed legislation to privatize the remaining parts of homecare. The Ford government has also expanded the private sector’s role in COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

On February 1, 2022, Christine Elliot the Minister of Health for the Province of Ontario while announcing the resumption of procedures and surgeries after the Omicron wave stated “we are opening up pediatric surgeries, cancer screenings, making sure that we can let Independent Health Facilities (IHF) operate private hospitals, all of those things are possible because we do have the capacity.” This means that the government is going to permit private clinics to operate private hospitals. Under current legislation for profit hospitals (private hospitals) have been prohibited since 1973. According to the Ontario Health Coalition this signals that the Ford government plans unprecedented for-profit privatization of health care which would be a mortal blow to the public health system.

In Ontario there are currently about eight hundred (800) Independent Health Facilities that primarily provide diagnostic services such as x-rays, ultrasounds and sleeping studies. About 25 IHF’s provide other services including surgeries such as cataract and plastic surgery, and  dialysis. IHF’s provide these services at no charge to patients who are insured under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan) OHIP).

IHF’s are independently owned and operated, and 98% of them are for profit corporations. It is estimated that about half of them are owned by or controlled by physicians.

Expanding the privatization of health care leads to increases in staffing shortages driving skilled health care workers from public hospitals to private clinics.

Private hospitals\clinics take easier and less complex cases, leaving patients with more complex and serious conditions to wait longer for treatment in understaffed and underfunded public hospitals. Private hospitals\clinics also charge user fees and extra bill patients for medically necessary services.

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