June 21, 2024

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Thousands march on Queen’s Park against health care privatization

About 5,000 people marched and rallied in Toronto on Thursday to call for end to what they say is the privatization of health care by the Doug Ford government.

Protesters converged at Nathan Phillips Square for a rally, then marched to Queen’s Park, where they held a demonstration on the lawn of the Ontario legislature. The protesters included community members, health-care advocates and frontline workers.

The Ontario Health Coalition, an umbrella group that organized the march and rally, says it opposes hospital closures and provincial government plans to expand the number of surgeries and health-care services that private and for-profit medical clinics can provide.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said the government is not properly funding health care in Ontario.

“It’s never been so bad. The health care system has being really driven into the ground,” she said.

“Now it’s just devastating. We’re seeing whole hospitals closing down, at risk of closing down. We’re seeing literally millions of people can’t get a family doctor and they’re bringing in for-profit primary care to replace it where people have to pay,” she said.

The coalition accuses the Ford government of allowing privatized health care at the expense of hospitals. It says the province is giving hundreds of millions in public dollars to for-profit corporations to privatize what have been, up until now, public services. At the same time, the coalition says local public hospitals are losing their emergency departments and a number are under threat of closure.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner and Deputy Leader Aislinn Clancy joined the protest to call on the government to stop the privatization of health care.

“Health care should be for people, not profits,” Schreiner said.

Province not ‘satisfied with the status quo’: minister

“It’s going to take people power and worker power to protect our health care system from Doug Ford, and we are going to fight to the end to keep our public healthcare system publicly funded and publicly delivered.”

Ontario Health Coalition 2
Protesters at the march and rally, organized by the Ontario Health Coalition, carried flags as they took to downtown streets on Thursday. (CBC)

When asked about the protest, Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones said: “I think we have an organization that is satisfied with the status quo, and frankly our government is not.

“We want to expand access in the province of Ontario. We want to make sure that people who want to have access to a primary care clinician have that opportunity,” Jones added.

Jones said the province has taken a number of steps to improve access to health care.

“We’re expanding absolutely within our hospital systems, but we’re also expanding in community because we want people to have access close to home and we’ll continue to do that. Status quo is not an option in my opinion,” Jones said.

The Ontario Health Coalition, which represents more than 500 member organizations, says its primary goal is to protect and improve the public health care system and that it works to honour and strengthen the principles of the Canada Health Act.