HomeHealthOntario residents asked to 'vote' on expansion of private clinics

Ontario residents asked to ‘vote’ on expansion of private clinics

Bill 60, which passed into law earlier this year in Ontario, allows more procedures, including orthopedic surgeries, to be performed outside of public hospitals

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Ottawa residents looking for bargains at the Great Glebe Garage Sale this weekend will also be asked to weigh in on Ontario’s health system.

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The Ontario Health Coalition, an advocacy group, is holding an unofficial citizen-led referendum on what it says is the increasing privatization of public health care in the province.

Polling stations will be located at Lansdowne Park during Saturday’s traditionally packed Glebe garage sale, as well as at other locations, including Happy Goat coffee shops around the city and some community centres and parks on both Friday and Saturday. People can also vote online at ontariohealthcoalition.ca.

Bill 60, which passed into law earlier this year in Ontario, allows more procedures, including orthopedic surgeries, to be performed outside of public hospitals and in clinics owned and operated by private, for-profit organizations. The treatment provided will be covered by OHIP.

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Provincial health officials say the move will help cut surgical wait times. But the experiences of other provinces prompt questions about that.

Ontario had the shortest waits for hip and knee replacement surgeries In Canada in 2021-2022, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Provinces that outsourced surgeries to private providers had longer wait lists. A study from Quebec recently found that the government paid more for procedures at for-profit clinics, although The Ottawa Hospital says orthopedic surgeries being done on Saturdays by a private group are less expensive than those done in the hospital.

Critics, including health workers’ unions, the Ontario Health Coalition and provincial opposition politicians, argue that the move threatens the public health system. Among key concerns is that a parallel privately run system will drain public hospitals of scarce nurses and other staff, and that patients will be upsold and end up paying out of pocket for additional treatment not covered by OHIP.

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The referendum, with more than 1,000 polling stations across the province, asks the question: “Do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics? Yes or no.” It is being billed as a chance for members of the public to weigh in on a significant change in the way health care is delivered in the province.

The ongoing debate about bringing more for-profit operators into the health system comes at a time when public hospitals are struggling with worsening staff shortages and wait times for some procedures and care. Recently, the General campus of The Ottawa Hospital was forced to close one of two operating rooms it has available for emergencies and urgent surgeries on Saturdays because a crucial staff member called in sick.

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Across the province, meanwhile, temporary emergency department closures have become common, especially in rural areas, because of staff shortages. Most recently, the emergency department at the Almonte General Hospital closed overnight because of staffing issues. The emergency department at its sister hospital in Carleton Place has temporarily closed repeatedly in recent months because of staff shortages.

For the past several months, The Ottawa Hospital has had an ongoing partnership with the group Academic Orthopaedic Surgical Associates of Ottawa (AOAO), which rents vacant operating rooms at Riverside Hospital on Saturdays to perform hip and knee surgeries. TOH’s President and CEO Cameron Love says the hospital has seen a 20 per cent increase in surgical productivity as a result of the partnership. He said the hospital saves about $1,600 a case, which is reinvested in patient care. He said the hospital plans to continue to partner with AOAO, which plans to move to a standalone facility and operate five days a week.

The hospital says there have been no cases in which the AOAO surgeries have negatively affected staffing in the public hospital system.

A list of voting locations can be found at:


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