Ontario Tories Pass Bill to Privatize Hospitals

Ontario Health Coalition
Stop privatizing our public hospitals - Ontario

May 15, 2023

When the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) warned last spring leading into the election that the Ford government was planning to privatize surgeries and diagnostic services, Ford repeatedly denied that was his plan. Those claims are shown to be totally false with Bill 60, the Ford government’s hospital privatization legislation passed into law yesterday.

With no mandate from Ontarians, the government is moving to cut core services including surgeries and diagnostics out of our public hospitals and transfer them to private for-profit hospitals and clinics. Initially, they plan to move 14,000 cataract surgeries to new private day hospitals that they want to have up and running by next fall. The government has already announced repeated rounds of tens of millions of dollars for private clinics, even while underspending on public healthcare and failing to plan to meet population need for care. They announced that they plan to privatize hip and knee surgeries by 2024.

2-Tier Healthcare is Coming

This will create 2-tier healthcare in Ontario in which patients will be faced with an increasing array of user charges and extra-billing for care when they are sick, elderly, in need and least able to pay.

This is why, over a century people in communities across Ontario funded and built their local public hospitals and our government responded 70 years ago by creating a public hospital system in the first place. It is also one of the reasons that private hospitals have been banned since 1973.

Bill 60 not only privatizes our core public hospital services, it also privatizes the oversight of the private clinics and deregulates healthcare staffing including who can call themselves a doctor, a surgeon, a nurse, an MRI technologist, a respiratory therapist and more. A large group of health coalition members were joined by Erin Ariss, Ontario Nurses’ Association president, and Michael Hurley, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE president, who, along with OHC executive director Natalie Mehra spoke at a press conference organized by the NDP then went into the Legislature to witness the vote. (More on that below.)

In the Legislature yesterday, the Opposition parties repeatedly raised examples of constituents who are already being illegally charged for services at private clinics. The Health Minister did not attend Question Period and left responses to her parliamentary assistant Robin Martin, MPP, who simply kept repeating the government’s PR lines about clearing the surgical backlogs.

At no point did the government answer for the fact that Ontario already has operating rooms in every public hospital that we have paid for and are sitting idle every evening and weekend due to underfunding and staffing. (Ontario funds its public hospitals at the lowest rate in Canada.) In fact, in a moment reminiscent of Donald Trump’s bombast, Doug Ford actually claimed “no one has done more” than his government to improve access to care. (In fact, his government repeatedly cites $800-million given to hospitals which is the total over four years – since the start of the pandemic – much of it funded by the federal government. In addition, this government has actually imposed wage caps and worsened what have become unprecedented staffing shortages for nurses, health professionals and doctors exhausted and burned out by working all out for the entire pandemic. While the staffing crisis has intensified, and dozens of local hospital emergency departments are facing repeated closures as a result, the government has chosen to underspend our COVID funding by billions and is underspent on healthcare every year while overspending the budget on private clinics.)

While Premier Ford and his MPPs continue to claim that Ontarians will always be able to pay with their OHIP card, and not their credit card, a new report today by Global TV shows that private clinics already are billing patients thousands of dollars in illegal user fees every year. As the government knows very well, the history of private for profit clinics in Canada shows the OHIP card claim is not the case, and research done by the Ontario Health Coalition and with the Globe and Mail proves it.

Despite the evidence, and despite the unanimous opposition of the opposition parties in the Legislature, the Ford government voted down every single amendment proposed to the Bill, and yesterday, they used their majority to vote to pass the Bill.

“Along with virtually all Ontarians, we are unalterably opposed to the privatization of our hospitals and this legislation. The passage of Bill 60 is not the end. It is the beginning. We will mount the biggest fightback this province has ever seen to save our local public hospitals. Millions of people of every political stripe in our communities have spent a hundred years or more building our system of local public hospitals. They do not belong to Mr. Ford to dismantle and give away to healthcare profiteers,” Natalie Mehra, Executive Director

Building a Referendum Campaign

The Ontario Health Coalition is building a province wide referendum campaign to stop what is the most undemocratic attack on our public healthcare in memory. And we need your support to make this happen. On May 26th and 27th and throughout the month online we will be asking Ontarians to vote on the question: Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for profit hospitals and clinics? Yes or No.

“Now that Bill 60 has passed, our job at the Ontario Health Coalition is to do everything in our power to stop its implementation. We have to make it politically impossible for the Ford government to privatize our public hospitals. To do this, we are mounting a massive People’s Referendum. We have set an ambitious goal of a million votes to save our local public hospitals.

To do this we are going to need tens of thousands of volunteers. Everyone matters. Everyone is needed. •

The Ontario Health Coalition is comprised of a Board of Directors, committees of the Board as approved in the Coalition's annual Action Plan, Local Coalitions, member organizations and individual members. The Ontario Health Coalition represents more than 400 member organizations and a network of Local Health Coalitions and individual members. Follow their tweets at @OntarioHealthC.