Private Clinics Still a Very Significant Threat; Rest of Bill 160 Remains
Success! Working with Minister Hoskins and Premier Wynne, We Are On Our Way to Ensuring the Ban on Private Hospitals Remains
We are pleased to be able to report that the Minister of Health, Dr. Eric Hoskins and Premier Kathleen Wynne agreed with our concerns about private hospitals in Schedule 9 of Bill 160 which is currently going through Ontario's Legislature. Schedule 9 repeals the Private Hospitals Act. This may sound like a good thing on the surface of it, but in truth this Act had banned all future private hospitals after 1973. It gave the Minister unfettered powers to revoke a private hospital's license and powers to stop the transfer (or sale) of a private hospital, in the public interest. When multinational giant private health corporation Centric tried to buy the Shouldice Hospital in Ontario, we used this legislation to ask the Minister to stop it. The ban in the Private Hospitals Act has worked to stop new private hospitals from opening in this province for an entire generation.
We were extremely concerned about the legislation, which, as written would lift the 44-year ban on private hospitals and enable the existing 1000 private clinics (98% of which are for-profit) in Ontario to turn into private hospitals. The Minister and the Premier agreed with these concerns and have worked to amend the legislation. Proposed changes to the legislation will go to the Standing Committee on General Government early next week. Then the legislation will return to the full Legislature for final Reading and debate before it is passed into law. The Legislature will rise on December 14 so we anticipate the process will be complete by then.
Thank you so much!!! to the thousands of individual concerned citizens who called or emailed your own MPP, or the Minister's office, or the Premier. We know that your efforts made a huge difference. Thank you also to all of those who came out to the Legislature on Wednesday to watch Question Period from the Galleries. The group was greeted by the Health Minister who said that he was working with us to get the language right and make sure the ban on private hospitals is "crystal clear". The group was also greeted by Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath who asked tough questions about this issue both on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Legislature. Thank you also to Andrea Horwath for keeping up the pressure in the public interest. We will send the video of the Question Period exchanges out to you as soon as we can get the clips.
Many thanks are also due to the lawyers Steven Barrett and Ethan Poskanzer who worked night and day to help with this, to the staff in the Minister's and Premier's offices who also worked night and day to help, and to OCHU/CUPE for providing for the legal team, to UNIFOR who contacted the Premier's office and asked for help to resolve this, to the OHC Board and all our affiliates -- from the nurses' organizations, ONA and the RNAO, to the Health Professionals at OPSEU and NUPGE, to seniors' groups like OCSCO, the Older Canadians Network and the Alliance of Seniors, and so many, many more, who put extra effort in to raise this issue in Hearings, with MPPs, among your memberships, and so on. This was a team effort. Thank you all for making it successful!
We will keep you apprised as the amendments go through Committee to be voted upon and the legislation goes back to the Legislature for final reading.
Private Clinics Still A Significant Problem
While we are really pleased that the Minister and Premier recognized the gravity of the issue regarding private hospitals and acted to stop them, we are still left with 1,000+ private clinics, the vast majority of which are for-profit and many of them chains. Many of these private clinics charge extra user fees to patients for medical services in violation of the Canada Health Act. Cataract surgery clinics are particularly bad. Other clinics sell a bunch of add-ons using manipulative tactics to push patients to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for care. This should never happen. Public Medicare in Canada provides that we pay ahead of time through our taxes for care and we share that money across income classes and generations, so that care is there for everyone when they need it. Extra user-fees violate the cornerstone principles of public medicare in our country. They drive up costs. They cause hardship, particularly to seniors and persons with chronic illness who are often patients most in need. The clinics have also shown serious breaches of safety and quality. One private endoscopy clinic in Ottawa failed to properly sterilize its equipment. Public Health had to contact 6,800 patients and advise them to be tested for HIV as a result. Studies have shown that the private colonoscopy clinics in Toronto have a high rate of tests that do not breach the colon, therefore do not tell the patient accurately whether they have cancer or not, for example. A patient died on the operating room table in a Toronto clinic where she was being given liposuction.
Privatization of hospital services into private clinics is not in the public interest. For patients, it is not easier having to travel from a public hospital emergency or specialist, to a private lab, to a private MRI clinic somewhere else, to a private diagnostic clinic of another sort somewhere else, and so on. For many people this actually requires travel from town-to-town as services have been entirely cut from their local hospitals. The privatization of these hospital services has fragmented care, forcing patients to travel to multiple different locations on multiple different days. This is particularly hard on seniors, the poor, those who cannot drive and those who work and have to take time off repeatedly to deal with the fragmented system. It is time to stop the cuts to and privatization of our hospital system and re-integrate services in quality public, non-profit hospitals and community health centres that are run for the public good not for private gain.
Unfortunately, Bill 160 does not do this. It leaves the field wide open for a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Health to vastly expand the private clinics. This is unchanged from the previous legislation that exists now and until the new Act is passed. It remains a significant problem.
Other Parts of Bill 160 Remain
Bill 160 is an omnibus bill that enacts or repeals 7 entire Acts, and amends another 30+ Acts. It was moved through the Legislature very quickly and there were only 4 part days of hearings in Toronto for the public to give input. There remain significant parts of the legislation with which we have concerns. You can read our submission to the Public Hearings for a brief review of these. It is here: http://www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca/index.php/urgent-action-alert-new-bill-allows-private-for-profit-hospitals-more-private-for-profit-clinics/
Ontario Health Coalition
15 Gervais Drive, Suite 201
Toronto, ON M3C 1Y8