LETTER: Health-care warning signs

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Editor: In a letter to civil servants on Jan. 7, 2019, Premier Doug Ford promised to reform Ontario health care at a “lightning pace.”  The pandemic interrupted his plans, but we are now seeing what he meant.

As he moves relentlessly to privatize health care in the province, he takes great pains to say, “Ontarians will always pay for health care with their OHIP card, never with their credit card.”  But in case you catch yourself believing this promise, you should remember these two words – Doug Ford.  This is the same guy who promised never to touch the green belt near Toronto while parceling out the choicest pieces to his developer cronies and pushed forward with plans to build the contentious Highway 413.

We have already seen the early results of his health-care initiatives.

In early March, reports surfaced in various reputable news sources like the Toronto Star and the CBC regarding the actions of a group called the Academic Orthopedic Surgical Associates of Ottawa inc. [AOAO].  On a Saturday in late February, this private group of 26 orthopedic surgeons leased two operating rooms in the Riverside Campus of the Ottawa Hospital and performed 10 orthopedic procedures.  

Despite the investigations of news organizations and questions by opposition politicians, the details of the procedures remain secret. Ominously, no one knows what the AOAO paid for use of the public facilities or how the patients were chosen. However, it is known that the nurses who staffed the operations were ones who work locally in the public system and were paid twice what they normally receive for their services.  

So, a justifiable fear exists that if these procedures persist, nurses will be poached from the public system. 

Unknown to many, because of funding and staffing shortages, there are many vacant operating facilities in hospitals across Ontario.  So it doesn’t take much imagination to see this tendency spreading rapidly across the province.

In addition, with the necessity of paying for facilities, purchasing equipment, hiring staff at a much higher rate than normal, plus the profit motive which no doubt creates organizations like the AOAO, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that sticking to the promise of paying with an OHIP card will become increasingly more difficult.  How long will it be until the issue of upselling, which is so common in some areas of health care now, and surgical appointments based on ability to pay becomes the norm? 

And how confident can anyone be that people like those who populate the Ford Government will be there to police these practices?

With the Provincial Liberal Party in disarray and presently leaderless and the NDP, with its new leader Marit Stiles struggling to get organized, never has it been more important for the voters of Ontario to become vigilant and take action.

The very future of public health care in Ontario is at stake.

Dennis Makowetsky

Chatham

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