The Ontario Health Coalition is urging Ontarians to cast a ballot in favour of maintaining a single-tier publicly funded healthcare system.
The OHC will be holding a citizen-run referendum May 26 and 27 at more than 1,000 voting stations across Ontario in protest of the Ontario government’s Bill 60. Ballots can also be cast online at PublicHospitalVote.ca. While there are in-person voting stations in other Northern Ontario communities, the OHC website doesn't list any voting stations in Timmins.
The province says the legislation will allow private clinics to perform procedures such as knee replacements, hip replacements and cataract surgery to cut long wait lists for care.
However, a new report out of Alberta, which in 2020 embarked on the same for-profit procedure scheme Ontario is launching now, showed the using for-profit clinics didn't actually clear any procedure backlogs or lower waitlists. In fact, the report found not only did the initiative not achieve its goals in Alberta, it had no impact on wait times (and in fact increased some); it didn’t increase the province’s surgical capacity (it actually reduced it), and; it diverted resources away from public hospitals.
The question on the ballot will be: "Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics?"
“It’s fundamentally undemocratic. Nobody voted for this,” said Al Dupuis, Blind River-based Ontario Health Coalition spokesperson for the Algoma District, in an interview with SooToday, a sister site to TimminsToday.com.
Government officials, including Premier Doug Ford, have stated that Ontarians will be able to pay for procedures at private clinics with their OHIP cards and not their credit cards.
“This is misleading,” Dupuis said.
“We know by way of research that the Ontario Health Coalition has done and corroborated by other media sources that in many of these private clinics that already exist, especially in other provinces, that there is upselling, that there is queue jumping if people want to pay extra, that there is upsold services or extra user fees, there’s all kinds of this sort of thing happening.”
Dupuis said the OHC agrees with an April 2023 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in which the court dismissed an appeal by British Columbia Dr. Brian Day to allow patients to go to private clinics in the face of long wait times for services.
While Day argued that long wait times for medical procedures violate Charter rights, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld universal public healthcare.
The OHC says that measures such as implementing Bill 60 could be avoided simply by spending more money on the existing publicly funded healthcare system.
“We don’t need these extra clinics to clear the backlogs,” Dupuis said. “We have operating rooms in many - in fact most - major hospitals in Ontario, that are closed at four o’clock in the afternoon or not open on weekends or are closed permanently because the province refuses to fund them and staff them.”
Dupuis said that as of May 19, 100,000 votes had already been cast in the OHC referendum online and that other people had voted at advance polls.
Voters will be asked to prove they are 16 years of age or older, a resident of Ontario and to vote only once.
The ballots and total provincial results will be released in Toronto outside the Ontario Legislature at noon on Wednesday, May 31.
-with files from Darren Taylor