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LETTER: Private clinics 'parasite' on the body of public health

'There is no easy answer to our health-care difficulties, but for-profit clinics are going to cost Ontario a lot more in the long term,' letter writer says
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OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter from David Howell is about privatization of health care in Ontario. 

Doug Ford plans to green-light the use of for-profit clinics to cut the backlog for surgical procedures. It is the simplest and the laziest way to handle our problems.

Some of the brightest minds in Ontario work in our hospitals, yet Conservative politicians’ only solution is to privatize health care. Rather than do the essential work to fix our public health system, Doug Ford goes to his favourite 'get-out-of-jail-free' card and pretends that the private sector can make the difficult problems simply go away. Make no mistake, it will cost the people of Ontario a great deal more money in the long term, and it risks gradually dismantling our public health system.

The main reason for long wait times for surgery is the staffing shortages of nurses and doctors. The only way that for-profit clinics can ramp up to deal with the surgical backlog is to steal trained, experienced staff from a public hospital system in Ontario.

Privatization will only worsen public hospital staffing shortages, which will hurt the ability of hospitals to provide care in the future. It has the potential to lead to a downward spiral of trust in a public health system that is understaffed, overworked, and may seem to have worse results because it treats the sickest people.

Once the for-profit clinics have their foot in the door and have normalized going 'private,' the slippery slope will begin, and they will continue to operate. Private clinics will provide backdoor access to faster service for those willing to pay.

What’s wrong with that? Simply put, private clinics 'cherry-pick' the wealthy, the healthier and the less-complicated patients, leaving complex cases and heavier care patients to public hospitals to care for with fewer staff and less funding.

The most critical cost to any procedure is the quality of the nurses and doctors providing the service. The cost of educating and training staff to a high level is not borne by these for-profit clinics but mostly by our University system, our hospitals and the taxpayers of Ontario. They take the cream from the top without paying for the milk. Private clinics are a parasite on the body of the public health system.

The Conservative government has shown little interest and has a very poor track record inspecting long-term nursing homes for monitoring workplace safety/standards or monitoring its own progress toward its climate change targets. Why should we trust that the Conservatives would do better at overseeing the privatization of health care in Ontario?

Doug Ford does not want to spend more money on health care. He does not seem to care about the working conditions of nurses and doctors that we already have. Every dollar paid to a for-profit clinic will be a dollar subtracted from the budget of the Ontario Ministry of Health and indirectly pulled from the publicly-operated clinics/hospitals.

Make Doug Ford accountable to make our existing health-care system work better. Make him accountable for the working conditions of the nurses and doctors in our public health system.

Don’t allow him to go to his lazy option of private clinics. Ask yourself: how can a private clinic make a profit with OHIP payment rates? Does it charge the patients more, does it pay its staff less, or does it up-sell for service or medical devices? There is no easy answer to our health-care difficulties, but for-profit clinics are going to cost Ontario a lot more in the long term.

David Howell