Health coalitions call on Prime Minister Trudeau to rein in privatization of health care by premiers

Health coalitions call on Prime Minister Trudeau to rein in privatization of health care by premiers

Winnipeg (Treaty No. 1 Territory), July 10, 2023 - As Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers meet, Health Coalitions across Canada are calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to  demand an end to the privatization of public health care by premiers. 

The Manitoba Health Coalition and the Canadian Health Coalition are hosting a rally in Winnipeg on Tuesday, July 11 at the Upper Fort Garry starting at 11:45AM local time for a short march to the Union Centre at 275 Broadway, to bring public health advocates together to oppose privatization, support public health care workers, and bring in new programs such as public universal pharmacare. 

Many provinces are already entrenching for-profit interests in their public health system through outsourcing to for-profit private clinics for surgeries and diagnostic imaging. The use of for-profit hospitals and clinics threatens to create a two-tiered, US-style health care system, where the ability to access care will be based on wealth and not need. 

Health Canada reported this year’s sanctions under the Canada Health Act totalled more than $82 million against eight provinces. The sanctions relate to patient charges levied during 2020-2021 for medically necessary services that should have been accessible to patients at no cost.

Evidence across Canada and around the world shows that privatization of health care leads to longer wait times in the public system as staff and resources are pulled away. In addition, for-profit delivery of care has been proven to be more expensive while delivering lower quality of care and patient safety. 

At the same time, increasing use of for-profit clinics provides incentives for these clinics to unlawfully extra-bill vulnerable patients. Some of these clinics have been taken to court in BC by the provincial government for unlawfully charging patient fees, which goes against provincial legislation and the Canada Health Act. In light of Bill 60 in Ontario, patients in the province are increasingly reporting paying for exorbitant charges for medical procedures that should be covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

The provinces must follow this evidence showing that a profit-centered health care system does not serve Canadian’s needs. This is especially true when solutions already exist to improve the public health care system and wait times. In some provinces, operating rooms sit idle in the evenings or weekends when they could be running. As well – proven innovations like team-based care delivered through a single-entry model for surgical referrals have not been scaled up to provincial levels.

While each province has its own unique needs and priorities, the federal government must ensure additional health care funding announced in February and in Budget 2023 is actually spent on health care by the premiers. Health Coalitions call on the premiers to ensure any public health funding be used in the public interest and not used to privatize health care.

The recent dismissal of the Cambie case by the Supreme Court of Canada letting lower BC court decisions stand shows the courts recognize privatization leads to the creation of a two-tiered, US-style health care system. This danger is recognized by Canadians as well. A recent citizen-led referendum on health care in Ontario resulted in 98% of participants voting no to the privatization of public health care services. Premiers should heed the courts and their constituents by reinvesting into our shared public health care system. 

Public health care remains our best defence against the COVID-19 pandemic and other health crises. After decades of austerity budgets, privatization, and inadequate planning, we need reinvestment into our public health care system, not more privatization.