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‘Enough is enough:’ Health coalition rallies against Ontario’s privatization health care plan

Launch events unveiling the Ontario Health Coalition's citizen-wide referendum were held across several cities Tuesday, including a rally outside St. Joseph’s Health Care in London, Ont., on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. Amy Simon / 980 CFPL

The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) says they’re “fighting back” in launching a citizen-wide referendum to stand up against the government’s plan to privatize public health care.

Launch events unveiling the referendum were held across several cities Tuesday, including a rally outside St. Joseph’s Health Care in London, Ont.

Peter Bergmanis, co-chair of the local OHC, said that hundreds of polling stations will be set up across the Forest City in the coming weeks.

“We’re going to send a strong message: This government does not have the right to touch the public health care system,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Ford government tabled legislation to expand the private delivery of public health care by “funding clinics to perform more cataract surgeries, MRI and CT scans, colonoscopies, and hip and knee replacements,” among others.

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The legislation is aimed at reducing wait times and surgical backlogs.

The government said that under the legislation, clinics won’t be allowed to refuse service to a patient who opts for the OHIP-only service, and they won’t be allowed to charge patients an additional fee to get services faster than others.

The bill was the first piece of government legislation introduced after the legislature resumed following the winter break.

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Ford government faces push back over health-care legislation allowing more private surgical centres

Following the announcement, the Health Coalition stated that they vowed to show an “unprecedented fightback to match the unprecedented privatization of Ontario’s core public health care services.”

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Bergmanis said that the thought of the legislation being passed is “absolutely terrifying.”

“We can’t go down this road (after) we fought for this over 60 years ago to make a Medicare public health care system,” he said. “People were going bankrupt and couldn’t afford their medicines. It’s that story that you keep hearing out of the south, and nobody down there wants what we have to be destroyed.

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“They want what we have. So we need to fight like hell to keep Medicare alive in Canada and in Ontario,” Bergmanis added.

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Patti Dalton, president of the London and District Labour Council, stressed that the public health care system should remain essential.

“Health care should be universal, should be accessible to everyone, and no one should have to pay for their health care in this country,” she said. “Enough is enough. We’re not going to take it and we’re fighting back.”

In expressing similar spirits at Tuesday’s rally was former nurse Penny Moore. As a 22-year cancer survivor, she still has weekly IV appointments at St. Joseph’s and said while the government’s aim is to reduce hospital backlogs and wait times through the legislation, “privatizing health care will only create more problems in the future.”

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“Think about the next generation. Think of the generations now… We need health care to belong in the community, we need health care to live daily, and we have health care for protection in the community. This will just cause more health problems,” she said.

“You think you’re saving money by privatizing, (but) you are not saving money.”

During the rally, the coalition highlighted that around the corner from where they stood is Advanced Medical Group, just one of the many private clinics said to benefit from the increased privatization of certain health services.

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“The Ontario Health Coalition and the local chapter want to make sure that people understand the threat of privatization and want to make sure that people get to vote and have a voice in terms of ensuring that we retain our public health care system,” said Dalton, who hopes to see a huge surge of support from the community to “make sure the message is sent loud and clear that we want our health care system to remain public.”

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The coalition is asking anyone over the age of 16 to cast their vote on May 26 and May 27. According to the referendum campaign timeline, a list of designated polling stations across Ontario will be unveiled at the beginning of the month.

Online voting will also be available at PublicHospitalVote.ca throughout the month of May.

The polling results will be announced on May 30 and all ballots will be delivered to Queen’s Park on May 31.

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