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‘Only better care for those that can afford it’: Health Coalition holds rally to protest healthcare privatization

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The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) fears the province is headed for an American-style, two-tier healthcare system.

"We can’t staff hospitals as it is right now,” said Peter Bergmanis, co-chair of the London chapter of the OHC. “If you’ve got another tier of care, where the lifestyle is going to be much more preferred than having your wages capped, I have a feeling you're going to see an exodus of people right into the for-profit system."

The Doug Ford government is expected to pass a bill titled ‘Your Health Act’ (YHA). The legislation includes procedures like cataract surgeries, MRIs, and CT scans being moved to private clinics.

The Province said it is investing nearly $80 billion this year into the publicly funded healthcare system.

“Premier [Doug] Ford, and Minister [Sylvia] Jones have been clear, Ontarians will access our healthcare system with their OHIP card and not their credit card,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health. “Our government knows wait times for surgeries and diagnostic tests have been increasing year after year. We are not okay with the status quo and know more work needs to be done.”

Mary Ann Hodge, Teresa Bell, and Lynn Brown attended the London Health Coalition rally at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, Ont. on April 18, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

They said YHA includes a plan to eliminate the surgical backlog and reduce wait times.

“Privatizing these systems hasn't worked in any jurisdiction really to provide better care on mass,” said Jacob Shelley, an Associate Professor jointly appointed to the Faculty of Law and School of Health Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences, at Western University. “It just provides better care for those that can afford it”.

Shelley believes those that can't afford privatized care will be put into a worse situation.

“While that might not seem to have an impact on any of us, the pandemic has shown how inextricably linked we are as a society. As the health of the lower socio-economic kind of strata of society are impacted that's going to have a impact on the rest of society,” said Shelley.

The OHC argued the bill will pass without any public consultation.

“They claimed they weren't even going to do it when they got elected,” said Bergmanis. “Yet two months after election, suddenly they're giving our money to for-profit clinics to do what we could do in our public hospitals."

Londoners voted in a London Health Coalition referendum with hopes to prevent the privatization of healthcare on April 18, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

The OHC gathered in cities across the province today to launch a citizen-run referendum.

They are asking anyone over the age of 16 to vote either online or with a physical ballot with the hope of stopping the privatization of health care.

The coalition said they'll continue this fight for the next couple of months. They plan on taking all the ballots to Queens Park before the legislature breaks for summer.

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