Ford creeping privatization of our medicare must be stopped in its tracks


In 1995, Ontario Minister of Education John Snobelen proudly stated that by creating a crisis and bankrupting the system he would have an unimpeded path to reforming the province’s education system. He did just that by cutting $2 billion from the education budget. Snobelen under Mike Harris’ premiership, succeeded in his plan, and the Ontario education system has been limping along from the damage ever since.

The door is now open for our “privatizing” Premier Ford, because, there is indeed a crisis in health care, the largest element of the public purse, created by what is called “an act of God” – the covid pandemic. Or did man play a part in creating the crisis?

While governments must be applauded for their efforts – flaws and all – during the pandemic, they showed a fundamental lack of imagination in dealing with the pressures placed on the medical system as covid sent hundreds to overcrowded hospitals, while the infection sent many hospital workers to their sickbeds. Many did not return to active duty.

The governments did not lack ways of easing the hospital overcrowding. In fact, there were sensible advice on offer that resembled very much what Premier Ford is now pushing. At the time of rampant covid, many members of the medical establishment suggested the creation of clinics around the province that would deal with issues/illnesses that did not need to be treated in hospitals: pregnancies and maternity matters that could have been handled by midwives; dedicated covid  hospitals or clinics could have been established to care for covid patients that are stable and not sick enough for hospital care and clinics to handle surgeries like cataracts, hip and knee surgery, colonoscopies, MRIs, CT scans, minor injuries that arrived at the doors of the hospital emergency department. Not only would it have eased hospital overcrowding, but it would have saved nurses and frontline workers from burnout because they would have been working in a “normal” environment. Those who left the system would have been at work today.

If this list looks much like what Premier Ford is touting, you would be right. Off-campus clinics have been in use in many countries with similar publicly funded medical systems like Canada’s. It’s a no-brainer that should have been part of our system years ago. The difference is that all this would have been an organic part of our publicly funded system. Ford now wants to appear as if he has made a discovery and is sending his privatizers and businessmen to rescue us as only they could.

Canada has never lacked politicians, business and community leaders who believe that the road to human happiness is through private ownership, with profit as motive, to lead us to the universal good life.

They have been at it for a long time with a greedy eye on our universal, publicly-owned medicare system.

The privatizers have been smarting since 1960 when Tommy Douglas, then premier of Saskatchewan, created the first publicly-owned medical system in North America. Then the doctors objected bitterly to Douglas’s foray into “their” private domain. They went on strike for three weeks against “creeping socialism” which they say was infecting the very fabric of Canadian society. They received financial support from the business sector and the American Medical Association, the same outfit that sees poor Americans dying in the streets because they cannot afford the price of being healthy.

Ford’s plans to establish privately-run clinics is nothing but a fraud that will see public money end up as profit in the pockets of clinicians that have been waiting for a long time to get their hands on our treasury.

The plan to establish clinics as suggested should go ahead but only if they are publicly-owned. They must be kept out of private, for-profit hands now, because once they get in at the ground floor, it will cost a fortune to take them back.

And you know into whose pockets that fortune will end up.