Sweeping changes to Ontario's health care system could be on the horizon, as the NDP say premier Doug Ford's plan for health care privatization is a done deal.
The NDP said in a Jan. 31 news release that they had obtained a health care privatization bill that indicated Doug Ford is revving up for serious cuts and privatization in Ontario's health care system.
The Ford government indicated that the document obtained by the NDP was merely a draft legislation, but in a news release sent out by the NDP on Feb. 4, the party stated that it has obtained internal government documents that detail a finished plan that already has cabinet approval.
“It’s a done deal — legislation is written, board members have been appointed and Doug Ford already has cabinet approval,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath. “But the entire Ford government has been hiding this plan from the public. Why? Because people won’t like it.”
A new structure for health care in Ontario is laid out in a Jan. 22 briefing document. Planning and oversight functions will be transferred to a new Super Agency. Among that Super Agency’s guiding principles is to “partner with public and private sector entities” when it comes to patient experience and health outcomes.
Critical services already slated to be outsourced to the private sector include, inspections, laboratories, licensing, devices, Ornge. Subject to Cabinet approval, the Super Agency has the power of “selling any of its services, including any analyses it has prepared of any information it has collected”.
As indicated by health care critic and Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas, the establishment of the Super Agency enables expansion of private, for-profit delivery of health care services, and could mean big changes or complete dissolution for local health integration networks (LHINs).
In the documents obtained by the NDP, Ford's plan outlines a new type of organization, called MyCare Groups, to oversee the delivery of a number of frontline health care services that are currently under the umbrella of the LHINs.
The Super Agency allows MyCare Groups to deliver the following health services:
- Hospital services
- Primary care services
- Mental health or addiction services
- Home care or community services
- Long-term care home services
- Palliative care services
- Any other prescribed health care service
Frontline care will be managed by 30 to 50 MyCare Groups, formed through a bid system with “Expression of Interest” due in March. It’s not clear if for-profit and private entities will win contracts to form MyCare Groups; but it’s clear that MyCare groups will be given the power to contract out frontline health care to private, for-profit entities.
The government was informed at a Jan. 17 agency review meeting that there was a risk of a potential labour disruption with unionized, LHIN-employed care coordinators, primarily Ontarion Nurses Association (ONA) represented members whose collective agreements expire in March.
Another risk outlined in the report was that new home care legislation would be needed to dissolve the LHINs, repeal the Local Health System Integration Act and shift home care responsibilities and employment to the Integrated Care Delivery System (branded as MyCare Groups).
The Health System Efficiency Act does not place restrictions on the types of organizations that can bid to become MyCare groups and receive public health dollars to deliver the health services listed above.
Currently LHINs are Crown agencies. Under the Health System Efficiency Act, MyCare Groups are not Crown agencies and are free to contract for-profit service providers to deliver health care services.
“Every dollar that goes to private profits is a dollar that’s siphoned away from front-line patient care,” said Horwath.
“The Wynne Liberals left our world-class health care system hanging by a thread. We have patients suffering through painfully long waits, and we have rampant hallway medicine making patients less comfortable, and less safe. We need every last health care dollar to go directly to delivering care and expanding Ontario’s ability to deliver care. We need to expand Canadian medicare — not let Doug Ford break it apart.”