Expanding private clinics will be costly, risk lives and worsen staffing shortages, health care unions say

"Whether they’re upselling or double billing, private clinics put profits first — and this move will undoubtedly hurt patients and the public health care system we all depend on. In these difficult times, we should be taking care of one another, not corporations and their shareholders." — JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO President 

Toronto (17 Jan 2023) — 5 major Ontario health care unions are calling on the Ford government to not move forward with its plan to siphon provincial funding from public hospital care and hand it to private for-profit surgical clinics. This is a risky venture that will cost Ontarians dearly and damage access to public care.

The unions — CUPE/OCHU, Ontario Nurses’ Association, OPSEU/SEFPO/NUPGE, SEIU Healthcare, and Unifor — say that this move will further starve our public health care system of funding and divert front-line staff to enrich private shareholders and diminish access to publicly delivered health care. Patients will wait even longer for health care under this scheme and should not be misled into believing they will not pay out of pocket.

Private care hurts patients and the public

The unions say that, since coming to office, this government has implemented policies to demoralize health care workers, worsen the staffing shortage, and cause burnout through heavy workloads and low wages. Funding private clinics will further damage the ability of Ontario’s public hospitals to provide high-quality care and make it even more challenging to retain front-line staff.

History shows that for-profit clinics siphon staff from public hospitals, focus their business on providing services for patients with the least complex medical needs to maximize their profits, and leave public hospitals to care for patients with multiple, severe  — and expensive-to-treat — conditions. Death rates and costs are higher in for-profit surgical centres.

“The claim that this move will relieve the burden from public hospitals is a blatant lie by Premier Ford and Minister Jones. To improve access to care, public hospitals require staff and funding, both of which will be even further depleted with increased reliance on private clinics," said JP Hornick, President of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO).

"The claim that patients will never pay out of pocket for health care under this sell-off scheme is another lie. Whether they’re upselling or double billing, private clinics put profits first — and this move will undoubtedly hurt patients and the public health care system we all depend on. In these difficult times, we should be taking care of one another, not corporations and their shareholders," said Hornick.

Investment essential to improve health care

For-profit clinics, long-term care homes and nursing agencies have already cost Ontarians enormously and have seriously worsened the staffing shortage in our public system. With rising living costs and inflation, Ontarians need investment in publicly delivered health care, not a model that will use public funds to generate private profits while decreasing access for all.

Rather than divert funding from public hospital care to privatized clinics, the government must invest in our cherished public system and implement a substantive public hospital staffing retention program. It must fund its public hospitals at least at the rate of the Canadian hospital average to deal with population growth, aging and inflationary pressures.

"As we know, privatization doesn't work. The only way to improve our health care system right now is to stop talking about things that will cost more and make our health care less reliable," said Bert Blundon, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), of which OPSEU/SEFPO is a Component union. "Governments — federally and provincially — must deepen their investments in ways to keep and increase the workforce, not in ways that will create more burn-out, and more strain." 

 

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NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 425,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good.

While our Components are located from coast to coast, the office of the National Union of Public and General Employees is situated on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg people and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

We recognize and acknowledge the crimes that have been committed and the harm that has been done.

And, we dedicate ourselves, as a union, to moving forward in partnership with Indigenous Peoples in a spirit of reconciliation and striving for justice. — NUPGE