In a virtual meeting the executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) warned of the dangers of Ford government initiatives to broaden private health care in the province.
Natalie Mehra played a video clip taken from a Feb. 1 announcement in which Health Minister Christine Elliott talked about a government plan to expand private clinics and private hospitals in the province.
Mehra called the privatization plan, "A mortal threat to health care in Ontario."
She was addressing a virtual session of the Sault Ste. Marie Algoma Health Coalition, an affiliate of the OHC.
Referring to the video clip, Mehra said, "You all heard it, that 'We're going to make sure that we let independent, private clinics, run private hospitals'."
"We made it public ... and almost immediately the ministry, realizing they were going to pay a political price for this, started backtracking," she continued.
"It's patently untrue that we need capacity in private hospitals and clinics in order to clear the backlog of surgeries and diagnostics," Mehra stated.
"Every major hospital in the province has closed operating rooms for weeks or even months...because they don't have enough funding to run them or they don't have enough staff to run them," she concluded.
Randy Robinson of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives told the meeting that despite a robust Ontario economic outlook, the province continues to spend less on health care per person than the Canadian provincial or territorial average.
He blamed the imbalance on the province's failure to collect money. "If you don't collect the money, you don't spend the money," he explained.
Robinson said, even throughout the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial government's spending on health care has increased very little.
That's due in part to the infusion of $145 billion in COVID-19 funding from the federal government, which is three quarters of the entire provincial budget.
He said Ontario would need to hire 22,000 more nurses just to meet the staffing average in the rest of Canada.
Mehra also called for a ban on the use of temp agencies for health care staffing which she said attract candidates by paying well over going rate being offered by not-for-profit health organizations.
Also present at the virtual meeting were Sault Ste. Marie's Marie VellaDova and Blind River's Albert Dupuis, the OHC's regional representatives.
The meeting was one of an on-going series of OHC-sponsored virtual get-togethers throughout the province designed to generate public debate on government health care spending and privatization plans.