Ford’s plan to expand private clinics in Ontario will cost patients dearly, risk lives and significantly worsen staffing shortages, healthcare unions say
January 16, 2023
Toronto, ON, January 16, 2023 – Five major Ontario healthcare unions are calling on the Ford government to not move forward with its plan to siphon provincial funding from public hospital care and hand it to private, for-profit surgical clinics, a risky venture that will cost Ontarians dearly and damage access to public care.
The unions – CUPE/OCHU, Ontario Nurses’ Association, OPSEU/SEFPO, SEIU Healthcare, and Unifor – say that this move will further starve our public healthcare system of funding and divert front-line staff to enrich private shareholders and diminish access to publicly-delivered healthcare. Patients will wait even longer for healthcare under this scheme and should not be misled into believing they will not pay out of pocket.
They say that since coming to office, this government has implemented policies to demoralize healthcare workers, worsen the staffing shortage and cause burnout through heavy workloads and low wages. Funding private clinics will further damage the ability of Ontario’s public hospitals to provide high-quality care and make it even more challenging to retain front-line staff.
History shows that for-profit clinics siphon staff from public hospitals, focus their business on providing services for patients with the least-complex medical needs to maximize profits, and leave public hospitals to care for patients with multiple, severe – and expensive-to-treat – conditions. Death rates and costs are higher in for-profit surgical centres.
For-profit clinics, long-term care homes and nursing agencies have already cost Ontarians enormously and have seriously worsened the staffing shortage in our public system. With rising living costs and inflation, Ontarians need investment in publicly-delivered healthcare, not a model that will use public funds to generate private profits while decreasing access for all.
Rather than divert funding from public hospital care to privatized clinics, the government must invest in our cherished public healthcare system, implement a substantive public hospital staffing retention program, and fund its public hospitals at least at the rate of the Canadian hospital average to deal with population growth, ageing and inflationary pressures.
“Every resident of the province should be concerned that our government is creating a two-tier system where those who can pay out of pocket will jump the queue to receive their surgery and treatment first. Nurses and healthcare workers need more support and better funding in the public system, not a plan that will simply divert public dollars into the hands of private shareholders. Nurses call on Premier Ford to abandon this disastrous plan and invest in the public system to ensure access for all.”
Bernie Robinson, RN, Interim President, Ontario Nurses’ Association
“Despite denying any support for hospital privatization during the last election, the Ford government is slashing public hospital budgets as it aggressively funds for-profit surgical centres. User fees, higher costs, higher death rates and the loss of hospital staff won’t impede this government’s commitment to monetize surgeries. For that, opposition by the hospital workforce and the people of Ontario is needed. Fierce resistance from both will be forthcoming."
Michael Hurley, President OCHU/CUPE
“Private profits are in direct conflict with low-cost and access to public care. The ultimate price for Premier Ford’s American-style scheme will be paid by the people of Ontario with a more severe staffing crisis and out-of-pocket bills. Frontline health care workers and their unions were not consulted, and we call on the Health Minister to shelf the PC privatization plan until a human resource risk assessment is undertaken and made public.”
Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare
“This move runs counter to the principles of our public health care system. Doug Ford is allowing private clinics to profit by performing these essential health procedures, which is not a solution to our health care crisis. It will simply make this crisis worse by exacerbating the staffing shortages in our public system and diverting funding away from public hospitals and clinics.”
Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director, Unifor
“The claim that this move will relieve the burden from public hospitals is a blatant lie by Premier Ford and Minister Jones. To improve access to care, public hospitals require staff and funding; both of which will be even further depleted with increased reliance on private clinics. The claim that patients will never pay out of pocket for health care under this sell-off scheme is another lie. Whether they’re upselling or double-billing, private clinics put profits first – and this move will undoubtedly hurt patients and the public healthcare system we all depend on. In these difficult times, we should be taking care of one another, not corporations and their shareholders.”
JP Hornick, President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union