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Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones Pledges to Help Private Clinics Find More ‘Opportunities’ in the Public Health System

Jones would not commit to capping the number of private health clinics operating in the province

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Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones says Doug Ford’s government will work with private health clinics to find more “opportunities” for private companies in the public health system.

On Thursday, Jones unveiled the government’s plan to “relieve” the health system’s surgical backlog by “increasing the number of OHIP-covered surgical procedures performed at independent health facilities.”

The term “Independent Health Facilities” refers to non-hospital health sites that perform medically-necessary operations typically done in-hospital. While some IHFs are non-profits, according to the Ontario Health Coalition, 97% of current IHFs are for-profit companies.

“After decades of inaction, we can no longer stand by and support a status quo that cannot respond to the current challenges the sector is facing,” Jones said. “We need to have the courage to look to other provinces and countries to understand how we can improve and learn from them.”

The government previously announced in 2021 it was looking to move some procedures to IHFs to conserve hospital capacity.

But responding to questions from reporters during Thursday’s press conference, Jones declined to rule out “lifting the cap on the number of private facilities” operating across the province.

“What I’m committing to is continuing to work with hospital partners, independent health facilities and healthcare professionals who see where opportunities are,” Jones said.

Danyaal Raza, board member of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, said there already is a system of Ontario health teams that work to meet local needs and “it’s unclear how private clinics would fit into that effort.”

“I don’t understand that comment,” Raza told PressProgress. “For too long healthcare has been atomotized and that has led to a high degree of inefficiencies and we can’t have this government creating more inefficiencies.”

Raza added that new for-profit clinics risk draining the system of already scarce staff.

“The healthcare system is incredibly short-staffed,” Raza said. “We do not want for-profit clinics cherry-picking patients and staff.”

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Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra said Jones’ search for “opportunities” is bolder language than the Ford government has used previously.

“They are now overtly saying that they are going to privatize hospital surgeries and diagnostics to for-profit clinics,” Mehra told PressProgress.

“It is a plan to privatize our public hospital services to for-profit companies. This will siphon already scarce staff out of public hospitals to private clinics that only take the profitable, easy patients leaving the more complex expensive patients behind with less staff and less funding.”

Ontario’s Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment from PressProgress.

 

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Mitchell Thompson
Reporter
Mitchell Thompson is PressProgress’ Ontario reporter. His reporting has a special focus on workers and communities, and public services and privatization, and public accountability.

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