Provincial Update: Building a movement to save public health care

A headshot of Joel Harden.
Joel Harden. Kitchissippi Times file photo.

Submitted by Joel Harden, MPP for Ottawa Centre

Last week we sent a message to Premier Doug Ford: our health care is not for sale.

More than 100 people turned out downtown on Jan. 19 to demand better for health care staff, better for patients, and better for our cherished public health care system. We heard powerful testimonials making this case from people who came with less than 48 hours notice.

We also did an outside tour of two private clinics operating in Centretown that give “fast lane” health care to those who can pay thousands in private fees. 

ExecHealth and La Vie Executive Health promise access to crucial medical services in days, while public system lineups can take months or longer given funding cuts.

This will only get worse if we allow public funds to subsidize the Ford government’s privatization plans. 

Earlier this week, Premier Ford announced permanent changes to use private, for-profit clinics to clear Ontario’s surgical backlog. Yesterday he said critics of this move “…are the ones that created hallway health care for many years.” 

That’s a curious view divorced from reality, but I’ve come to expect that from this premier. He likes to blame others, avoid responsibility, and reward friends seeking to profit from services usually performed by the public sector. 

The Herzig Eye Institute is a case in point. Herzig executives are major Tory donors, and stand to benefit handsomely from the 5,000 cataract surgeries in Ottawa they will absorb per year from the current surgical backlog if the Ford government’s plan goes ahead.

But as Elizabeth Payne reported in the Ottawa Citizen earlier this week, most cataract patients in Ottawa are able to access corrective surgery within six months through our public system. But wait times for complex care cataract patients can be different. 

How long will cataract patients wait for Dr. Kashif Baig’s services at Herzig? And how much will OHIP be billed for surgical procedures done there? These are important questions that, as I write these words, have no answers.  

We also risk losing staff from an overburdened and underfunded public health care system to private care. Upselling and price gouging in private health care is common. These trends are great for private health care executives, but terrible for everyone else. 

So let’s build a movement to save public health care. Join me and MPP Chandra Pasma for a health care leaders roundtable at noon on Feb. 3, 2023. Go to for details. We’ll host Ottawa’s health care leaders, and you can tune in online. It’s time to get organized, and make good trouble. 

Ontario’s education workers showed us how to do that in 2022; inspired by their example, we can save public health care in 2023.

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