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LETTER: COVID has become 'excuse for devolving' health care

'Using tax dollars to pay for a two-tier system ... is not a fiscally sound move, but one where select individuals will get rich quick on your taxpayer dollar'
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The issue of health care is again up front. This past week, CBC obtained a document outlining the cost of privatization through a freedom of information request. In their report, they compared the reimbursement for certain surgeries in a for-profit clinic vs. public hospital.

For example, cataract surgery in a contracted private clinic is $1,264 whereby public hospitals get $508. In addition, for hip surgery the private clinic receives $4,037 and public hospitals are reimbursed at between $1,273-$1,692. In many cases the increase is between 250 per cent to 333 per cent. In the case of cataracts, that is more than twice the cost — which means two people could be served for less than the price paid to the private clinic.

Let’s not forget that these are your tax dollars. The same tax dollars that could go to improving wait times at ERs or for surgeries at your local hospital.

It should come as no surprise to any reasonable person that the cost of private health care is far higher than public. At a minimum, the fees paid must provide returns to the investors; something not required in public health systems.

For sure, as you may have noticed in numerous TV ads, private insurers are hovering like vultures to gather in your annual premiums to “cover health costs not covered by your government health program” as they state. Why? What do they know that we do not?

The Ford government continues to defend privatization of health care, which they claim will clear up a backlog from COVID and will reduce wait times for specific surgeries. Their position clearly raises eyebrows, even among their own followers. COVID has become the excuse for devolving our Medicaid.

We all know public healthcare is severely underfunded and understaffed. Yet the Conservatives continue to call it fiscal responsibility and efficiency. The results of their actions speak quite differently. 

Just think about how efficient and responsive our public system could be it were funded at the same rates that private clinics receive. We would again see the world-class health-care system we once knew.

Sticking to their deceptive narrative, the Ford government states our public system does not have the capacity to handle the demand. Studies, practitioners, researchers, and many others know that, if it was properly funded, it would surely be able meet the need.

Doctors, health-care workers, and policy analysts have stated that this path to privatization is dangerous and a threat to our public health. They cite serious staff shortages, unfunded needed upgrades to infrastructure, and a health system developed around profit for stakeholders.

We must not forget what happened in long term care during COVID. Frail and elderly patients suffered and died, yet the shareholders continued receiving their dividends and the government shuffled out of sight.

We must not forget what happened before Medicaid, when entire families lost their savings to cover basic health care or simply died. We must not allow our system to degrade to the overstuffed and costly American model.

France Gelinas, ONDP Health Critic, spoke to the CBC report at Queens Park this past week. She again displayed her passion for a public health-care system for all Ontarians. The Ford government retort was to reiterate their excuse that “… fast and timely service…” was the goal. Like everything else this government has mismanaged, fast and under the radar seem to be the driving principles.

Once the privatization train is rolling full tilt, how are we going to afford it? We have been told that our OHIP card will cover services, yet there are many reports revealing that patients are receiving bills. Not only that, but the OHIP card will be tax dollars funding private shareholders instead of supporting public health care.

Using tax dollars to pay for a two-tier system will lead other health services to make that move. This is not a fiscally sound move, but one where select individuals will get rich quick on your taxpayer dollar.

As we continue the pressure for accountability, I urge you to relay your concerns to our MPP, Jill Dunlop. Call her, email her, let her know this is a bad idea. Stop her on the street or at the next photo op and ask the hard questions. Demand real answers not just packaged responses. Send letters to the editor of your media outlets challenging her to respond. Talk to your health-care providers and learn about their strains and stresses.

This is not about politics. This is about your health care and the health care of your family and grandchildren. Be informed. Be aware. And, most of all, act.

Elizabeth Van Houtte
President Simcoe North Riding
Ontario New Democratic Party