Ontario’s healthcare system is not a candy store to loot

Softcore porn mogul Hugh Hefner once said, “I felt like a kid in the biggest candy store in the world.” My guess is that Doug Ford feels much the same about Ontario’s healthcare system.

No, I’m not suggesting that the Ontario premiere is related to softcore porn. His friend and his base.

With the health care system in turmoil, Ford plans to privatize more, and Ontario’s health care is already 40% privatized, touting this as a way to save the system through “innovation.” increase.

This is the story of a silly company. The system’s problems have been thoroughly studied by countless commissions, and the solutions do not include privatization.

Indeed, Ford’s plan to allow private medical companies to perform the surgery at the expense of the government is not the way to solve the medical backlog.

Ontario has many hospital operating rooms that are not being used after years of cutbacks. Instead of putting them back into service, Ford plans to divert public funds to private facilities. But these private companies take 10-15% of profits and pay high administrative fees, cutting corners and hurting patients.

That’s what companies do, devising ways to maximize shareholder returns. That is their mission and their reason for being.

And they hit the corporate sweet spot when payments were guaranteed and they were granted access to public troughs where they didn’t have to worry about competition. Instead, what companies really want is a comfortable niche in an uncompetitive zone with a reliable source of income. Thank you Medicare!

Last week, Ford named Scholtis Hernia Hospital in Markham as a model. A shouldice is a private hospital that was allowed to continue operating (at the government’s expense) after Ontario’s 1973 ban on private hospitals.

Ontario’s public hospitals typically perform hernia surgeries as day surgeries, but Shouldice keeps hernia patients more than two nights in the hospital, dramatically increasing government costs.

As former Ontario Deputy Health Minister Bob Bell tweeted last week, “The government suggests Shouldice is ‘innovative’ to make a profit by letting hernia patients stay in the hospital for two nights. It just shows how little you understand surgery.”

On the other hand, the acute shortage of nurses, a key factor in the current crisis, could have been solved if Ford had been willing to raise nurse salaries and treat them better.

Instead, he threw a whip and refused to remove the insulting 1% cap he imposed on their wage increases, despite 7% inflation.

The reason this is more than austerity stupidity is that governments are instead willing to hire nurses from private nursing institutions at double or triple the cost, and private institutions are willing to cut this public money generously. It means that you are taking your time.

But Ford’s most egregious medical privatization involves nursing homes.

As we learned at the height of the pandemic, COVID-related mortality in for-profit nursing homes was about three times higher than in publicly operated facilities. The care at some of these civilian facilities was so appalling that the Canadian military was called to their aid. (Some military personnel were traumatized by the horrifying conditions they witnessed and needed mental health support.)

However, negligent private operators are not punished. In fact, Ford passed laws to protect him from lawsuits brought by patients and their families.

And Ford ensured a lucrative future for the private nursing home business, which is notorious for lavishing millions of dollars on former Conservative Prime Minister Mike Harris.

Ford has awarded 16,000 nursing home beds (30-year government-subsidized licenses) to private operators. It’s best to keep your troops on standby.

Privatization has nothing to do with innovation, nor does it have anything to do with saving precious healthcare dollars or protecting the public. It’s about allowing corporate bros to squeeze out the public system, and they’re already happy to do it.

With Ford opening the door wide for them, let’s not forget that the candy stores they’re looting are our beloved public health system.

Ontario’s healthcare system is not a candy store to loot

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