TORONTO – Ontario’s health minister was forced to make assurances Monday that long-term care inspections and the province’s air ambulance service will not be privatized, as leaked documents appear to peg those services for “outsourcing.”
Christine Elliott’s comments came after the NDP released a second set of confidential government documents following the release last week of a draft version of the Progressive Conservative government’s upcoming health-care transformation legislation.
“The NDP have intentionally created confusion about the way care is delivered in this province,” Elliott said. “As we bring forward desperately needed and overdue change to health-care in this province, Ontarians will continue to access reliable, public health-care.”
The Ontario Provincial Police have been notified about the document leaks and the person responsible is no longer employed by the government, the head of the public service said in a memo.
Both sets of leaked documents show the government is creating a health “super agency” that would be in charge of managing health services, quality improvement, patient relations, digital health and tissue donation and transplants, among other responsibilities.
The draft legislation would allow the government to roll local health integration networks, Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario, the Trillium Gift of Life Network and other government health agencies into the super agency. The local health networks are responsible for delivering home care, and one document warns of a risk of service disruptions.
Elliott said the plan is not final and consultations are ongoing, but the NDP say the documents they revealed Monday include references to cabinet already approving the overall plan and appointing super agency board members.
One document, as part of a Dec. 13 workshop for assistant deputy ministers, references outsourcing laboratories – many of which are already privately run – inspections, licensing, devices and the province’s air ambulance service, Ornge.
Elliott said none of those services will be privatized.
“Options developed by the public service are simply that – options,” she said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is just fearmongering in order to fundraise, Elliott said, pointing out an NDP web post about the documents that leads to a plea for cash.
“The only ones trying to profit from our public health-care system today are the NDP,” Elliot said. “This is just one big fundraising campaign on fears and lies.”
Elliott has been trying to pour cold water on the idea of health privatization since last week’s release of the draft legislation, but Horwath said Monday that the new documents show there will indeed be a greater role for the private sector.
“(Premier Doug) Ford is going to privatize specific, critical services and he’s throwing open the door to even more privatization,” she said. “This scheme is an unprecedented opportunity for private, for-profit corporations to get their mitts on our health-care system.”
The documents show a new model of “integrated care delivery” is being created, called MyCare groups, intended to “provide patients with seamless, co-ordinated care and a single team of providers for all their care needs.”
The documents mention an expression of interest for the MyCare groups going out in March, which the NDP are interpreting as allowing the contracting out of front-line health care to private, for-profit entities.
Another document lists risks in the plan, including “service disruption and capacity to manage and oversee (local health integration network) functions during transition period,” as well as potential labour disruption with unionized care co-ordinators at the networks.