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Local health coalition pushing back against private health care expansion with referendum

The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) is launching a “citizen-led referendum” to push back against the province’s plans to expand private health care.

On Tuesday, chapters across Ontario will hold events in their communities to draw attention to the issue. Locally, the Haliburton Highlands Long Term Care Coalition (HHLTCC) is inviting residents to Haliburton’s Head Lake Park at noon, to learn more about the referendum and why it matters.

“All local coalitions are trying to raise awareness about how detrimental privatization is going to be for our health care system,” says Bonnie Roe, chair of the HHLTCC. “I think there’s fears that this is the demise of our local health care system, and provincial health care system.”

According to Roe, the referendum will be open to any Ontario resident 16 or older, with voting taking place in-person or online on May 26 and 27, with the results taken to Queen’s Park on May 31.

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She says the ballots will simply read: “do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics, yes or no?”

The move is in response to legislation tabled in February to expand for-profit clinics and hospitals to take on surgeries and diagnostic procedures typically done at public hospitals, something the province claims will make it easier and quicker to access care.

Roe says privatizing health care is a slippery slope.

“The founding principle of our Canada Health Act is equity,” says Roe. “That everyone should be able to receive public health care, no matter what their age, no matter what their financial status. If people can jump the queue and pay huge dollars, those that can’t afford to pay are going to be left at the bottom.”

Roe says hospitals province-wide are already short staffed, with some having to cut services or temporarily close emergency departments, adding that private clinics would likely make that worse by siphoning away existing workers.

“The amount of fundraising that went into those hospitals, and the support that’s been given by the community: if that were ever to be taken away, then we have really lost in this issue,” says Roe. “Because they are our local hospitals, and that’s why people want to maintain even two hospitals in Haliburton County.”

Roe says voting stations will be set up at businesses across every community in the county, with 25 signed on so far. She adds that they need volunteers to assemble, man, and count the ballots, and anyone interested in helping can contact her at 705-457-6579 or [email protected].

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