Operating rooms in public hospitals going unused while health care privatized

prescription pad with stethoscope and large amount of canadian one hundred dollar bills, medical/financial concept.

February 26 2024

A report from the Ontario Health Coalition shows that operating rooms in public hospitals are going unused because of underfunding. Yet, at the same time, the provincial government is spending more and more on for-profit clinics. The report Robbing the public to build the private: The Ford government’s hospital privatization scheme found that in every part of the province there were operating rooms that were being underutilized or were not being used at all.

Public hospital funding cut in real terms

Funding for public hospitals has not kept pace with inflation. Between 2022/23 and 2023/24, funding for public hospitals increased by only 0.5%. This means that, in real terms, funding for public hospitals was being cut.

As a result of this cut, public hospitals didn’t have the funds to make full use of their facilities. Between January and November of 2023, there were over a 1,000 instances of vital services being closed in Ontario, including 868 temporary or permanent emergency department closures.

Provincial government spending on for-profit clinics and for-profit hospitals more than doubled

While public hospitals were facing cuts to funding in real terms, the provincial government more than doubled what it spent on for-profit facilities. As the report shows, spending on private clinics increased by 212.0%, while spending on private hospitals increased by 278.2%.

For-profit clinics increase the cost of health care

The use of for-profit clinics doesn’t just threaten to create a 2-tier health care system, it also costs more.

As has been reported in the past, the fee per surgery that the provincial government pays to private for-profit facilities is more than double what public hospitals receive. This means that using private for-profit facilities is pushing up the cost of health care.

There are also reports of private for-profit facilities charging patients user fees on top of the money they receive from the provincial government, in contravention of the Canada Health Act.

Fixing the problem means making sure health care funds go to the public system

While underfunding of health care is a problem, privatization is only making things worse. One step governments at all levels can take is to make sure health care funds go to improve the public system and are not squandered on privatization schemes that line the pockets of a few privatization profiteers.