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'Robbing from the public to build the private': New OHC report sheds light on plight of Ontario hospitals

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A scathing new report from the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) is criticizing the Ford government’s handling of its publicly funded healthcare system, and accuses the provincial government of intentionally starving the system in order to fund private hospitals and for-profit clinics.

According to the OHC report, ‘Robbing from the public to build the private: The Ford government’s hospital privatization scheme,’ the public has funded local hospitals for the past 70 years, but local hospitals “in every region of Ontario have operating rooms sitting idle the majority of the time."

The report adds these spaces are going unused “while the Ford government is shunting unprecedented public money to private for-profit clinics and hospitals to build new operating rooms.”

Over the past year, the OHC has researched unused capacity in local public hospitals by conducting interviews with surgical staff and through freedom of information requests. Additional information was gathered from Ontario government budget and expense documents, media reports, contracts and accountability agreements.

The OHC alleges that the data reveals a “litany of examples of much higher costs and large funding increases provided by the Ford government to for-profit corporation clinics, hospitals and staffing agencies.”

At the same time, the OHC said the government has “imposed dollar cuts, deficits, and wage caps on public hospitals, robbing them of the ability to attract and retain staff and use their existing operating room capacity.”

In the report, the OHC points to a number of communities with functional but unused operating rooms across the province, including London, Southampton, and Wiarton. In addition, the report sheds light on the number of operating rooms that are closed "the majority of the time,” such as in late afternoons, evenings, overnight and/or on weekends.

The OHC accuses the Ford government of slashing funding to public hospitals “while funding for-profit hospitals and clinics with increases up to and over 300 per cent,” and adds that Ontario funds its public hospitals at the lowest rate of all provinces.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars in public money is being used to dismantle and privatize our public hospitals, robbing the public to build the private,” said Natalie Mehra, OHC executive director.

The report also claims the provincial government is funding private for-profit hospitals at double the rate per surgery than public hospitals, is refusing to take action on agencies that charge up to three times more than public hospitals for staff, and “Chronically underspent the health care budget, shunting billions to contingency fund and budget surplus, while leaving hospitals in unprecedented crisis.”

“A few for-profit corporations are being enriched by the Ford government’s privatization scheme while our public hospitals and patients pay the price. It is beyond time that there is a rigorous investigation into who is benefitting from these policy choices and what their connections are to this government, because the costs and threats to our local public hospitals and the future of our single-tier public health system are very real and urgent,” Mehra said. 

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