Nefarious New Health Act Receives Royal Assent

– Enver Villamizar –

On May 18, the Ontario Ford government's Bill 60, Your Health Act, received Royal Assent. Amongst other things, the new law permits core medical services currently done in publicly funded hospitals, including surgeries and diagnostics, to be delivered by private for-profit hospitals and clinics.

The government has announced that its initial plans are to move 14,000 cataract surgeries to new private day hospitals that it says will be up and running by next fall. It has also announced that it plans to privatize hip and knee surgeries by 2024. Both cataracts and artificial joint surgery require implantation of medical devices -- cataract surgery involves placing an artificial lens, while joint surgery involves a prosthesis or artificial joint. These surgeries provide the private clinics the opportunity to "upsell" from the no longer up to date standard prosthetic implants provided through the OHIP system, with patients offered a "choice" to pay the difference of potentially thousands of dollars.

Bill 60 also privatizes the oversight of the private clinics and deregulates health care staffing including who can call themselves a doctor, a surgeon, a nurse, an MRI technologist, a respiratory therapist and more.

This is taking place as the Ontario government has already announced repeated rounds of tens of millions of dollars for private health clinics, while cutting back on its funding for public health care which in a modern society is duty-bound to address the actual needs of the people and the health care system.

It is also taking place in the midst of determined organizing work of Ontario health care workers which puts forward solutions to the health care crisis. This crisis is caused by the neo-liberal anti-social offensive which diverts money from public programs to pay-the-rich schemes. Subsequent governments have exacerbated the crisis at every turn by attacking the workers with legislated pay caps and limits on what health care workers can negotiate. The aim is to create conditions for an argument on the greater efficiency of privatizing by preventing the workers from addressing problems such as staffing shortages and staff burnout in a manner that favours the workers and the public health care system.

Like in Quebec with Bill 15, An Act to make the health and social services system more effective, the restructuring of the health care system in Ontario on a blatant for-profit basis is coming out of the pandemic and taking place in the midst of negotiations with health care workers for contracts which defend their rights and the rights of patients. Outside of these negotiations the government is making significant changes to the health care system and imposing them as a fait accompli, as if the workers are irrelevant to the actual functioning of the system.

See also "Ontario Government's Reduction of Medical Wait Times by Financing Private Clinics," Barbara Biley and Peggy Morton, TML Monthly, February 2023.

This article was published in
Number 28 - May 25, 2023

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