TORONTO — Ontario’s Liberal government is putting community hospitals and medicare at risk with a plan to turn a wide range of services over to private clinics that will extra bill patients, a health care advocacy group warned Monday. The Ontario Health Coalition said taking such things as diagnostic services, physiotherapy and operations like cataract surgeries out of hospitals and having them provided by private clinics is a direct threat to publicly-funded medicare.
“This is a giant step towards American-style private health care, there’s no question,” said coalition executive director Natalie Mehra. “Virtually all of the private clinics that exist in Canada bill the public health system and they charge extra user fees too. That’s illegal under the Canada Health Act, but that’s routine in the private clinics.” Patients going to private clinics in Ontario can be billed up to $1,300 in extra fees for cataract surgery, while people looking for endoscopies or colonoscopies face fees of $80 to $200 above what’s billed to OHIP, said Mehra.
“These are services patients have paid for already through our taxes, and the private clinics are bringing in two-tier health care,” she said. “The Ministry of Health has turned a blind eye to these charges, and is now expanding the private clinic sector.” Health Minister Deb Matthews was unavailable for comment Monday, but her office said the government was committed to “move more routine, low-risk procedures into the community” through non-profit clinics.