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  • Writer's pictureMarjorie Griffin Cohen

Can more for-profit health care be stopped?

Health care delivery is changing throughout the country

March 13, 2023

Photo by Hamza Butt/Flickr

The new health accord between Ottawa and the provinces provides more money, but it could also easily bring an even faster rollout of for-profit provision of health care across the country.

Right now, it’s pretty much up to the provinces to determine health care spending. But there are big differences between what they are doing and saying about for-profit care.

British Columbia in particular is taking a unique approach to some aspects of for-profit health care compared to other provinces—including Doug Ford’s Ontario. The recent BC throne speech, David Eby’s first as premier, was especially pointed about privatization not being the answer:

There are debates right now about the future of universal medicare around the country. Some jurisdictions are pushing for more privatization, allowing the wealthiest to buy their way to the front of the line. Make no mistake, that doesn’t fix the line. It would only lead to more costs and longer lines for the rest of us. And it is a dangerous step towards a two tiered system.

This sentiment was repeated in the February 2023 budget speech which stressed that Eby’s government would not be initiating budget cuts, would run a deficit to better meet care needs, and “instead of privatizing health care… would strengthen public health care.” This is important, but it still leaves the question about whether it refers only to services outside the public system, or about payment inside the public system. This is where much privatization occurs now.

BC recently made a very important step in bringing back into the public system 4,600 hospital workers whose jobs had been contracted out by the Liberal government in 2002. It also supported the public system in the courts through its case with Dr. Brian Day’s Cambie Surgical Centre over the issue of private for-profit centres (Day is a “self-described champion of privatized health care”).

In contrast, Ontario Premier Doug Ford champions the shift to the private for-profit sector for many surgeries by saying, “you can’t have endless debates about who should deliver health care. The way I can describe it, you have a dam, you have a log jam, are you going to just keep pouring the water up against the logs? Or are you going to reroute some of the water and take the pressure off the dam? You see what happens when the dam has too much water, it breaks.”


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