An informal referendum held by the Ontario Health Coalition has, not surprisingly, determined an overwhelming number of people are opposed to privatization in the healthcare system.
The advocacy group has been consistently critical of the Ford government, particularly over suggestions it intends to privatize more aspects of the system.
In this area, the Waterloo Region Health Coalition (WRHC) reports the plebiscite garnered 28,054 votes against privatization and just 267 votes in favour of it.
Across the province, the non-scientific results were much the same. The OHC reports 386,000 votes were cast province-wide, with just two per cent support for privatization.
In January the province announced a three-phase plan to relieve the backlog in the healthcare system. The first phase will involve the performing of 14,000 more cataract surgeries per year at three diagnostic centres in Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa. The second phase will involve MRI and CT scans performed at the clinics, while the third phase will look to expand to knee and hip replacements.
The move to privatize surgeries and diagnostic procedures will “really destabilize” public hospitals, said WRHC chair Jim Stewart. Instead of adding healthcare workers in Ontario it will only take away staff from the public system and drive them towards the private clinics.
“We can certainly take care of the backlog with all of the staff we have in our public hospitals. We can do it better, we can do it less expensively. It will cost less and have better outcomes because we’ve got properly trained people and capable support staff.”
Stewart said the current way of doing things is inefficient, but can be funded public healthcare system.
“This is not an add on to our public healthcare systems. This is a dismantling and destruction of our public hospital services. We don’t need to do this, and it’s going to cost more to do it,” he said.
Stewart pointed to a recent report from the Parkland Institute in Edmonton that found similar moves in Alberta “has diverted resources away from public hospitals and failed to increase provincial surgical activity from pre-pandemic levels.”
“We have evidence that privatizing these types of services doesn’t work. It doesn’t reduce the wait time in fact, it drives it in the wrong direction,” Stewart said.
While the vote was not an official referendum from the province, Stewart compared this to a public petition which typically gets 5,000 to 10,000 signatures versus the more than 386,000 votes the OHC generated across the province.
“This is monumental. And this is a strong message to the government of Ontario, telling them that what they’re hearing from all of the lobbyists or private healthcare corporations is not the only side of the coin, that the people of Ontario got a chance to speak, and the people of Ontario are telling Mr. Ford and the government of Ontario that ‘No, this is not the way to proceed.’ What we want is a fully funded resilient public healthcare system that can deliver all the services, better outcomes, and cost less,” he said.