Is the Ford government getting ready to privatize health care in Ontario?

The answer is yes and no, but when most people see the details they likely won’t care.

The NDP was raging against the government Thursday afternoon, party leader Andrea Horwath waving around a draft bill delivered to her office, quite literally in a brown envelope.

“This is a blueprint for privatization and today is day one of a full on fight back,” Horwath said.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath speaks during a press conference at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESSFrank Gunn

A couple of hours later Health Minister Christine Elliott was out defending public health care.

“We are committed to our public health care system, that is what the people of Ontario expect, that is what we will deliver,” Elliott said.

Elliott called the document the NDP released an early draft and said nothing had been decided.

What Elliott wouldn’t rule out, and what the draft bill would allow for, is the private delivery of health care using public funds. Which of course, we already have in so many areas.

From your family doctor to the x-ray or blood clinic, even abortion clinics in Ontario, are private facilities that are paid from the public system for the health services they provide.

Yet asked several times if she would allow or consider allowing this for hospitals, Elliott wouldn’t answer. She fell back on talking points about supporting the public system.

That’s all well and good but we can have private hospitals inside the public system and I doubt most people would care.

In fact, we already have them here, six private hospitals in fact.

As Elliott said in her news conference, the current system needs fixing now.

“We have over 32,000 waiting for a long-term care space,” Elliott said. “Right now, every day, there are over 1,200 people receiving health care in hallways in our hospitals. That’s not acceptable to anybody.”

She’s right, it’s not acceptable and if the government doesn’t have money to build more hospitals but the private sector can provide service for the same fee then let’s get a move on it.

The draft legislation would appear to allow this.

The public wouldn’t notice or care as long as they didn’t have to pay extra and this move would fit within conservative philosophy.

Horwath continues to say the system isn’t working but opposes any changes and insists all health dollars must go to public agencies or not-for-profits.

Why?

That is the system that gave us hallway health care. It’s also a system that pays insane salaries at the top.

William Reichman, President and CEO of Baycrest Centre For Geriatric Care, earned $722,875 last year, Michael Apkon, President and CEO of the Hospital for Sick Children, earned $719,694.40.

And Horwath is worried about shareholders in a private company getting rich if we allow private hospitals to work inside the public system?

There are good parts and bad parts of this proposed legislation, but the NDP is fighting the wrong battle because they can’t get past the idea of a private company providing a vital service.

Apparently socialists don’t eat in restaurants or shop at grocery stores.

This draft legislation also proposed scrapping the wasteful Local Health Integration Networks, which is a good idea but proposes setting up a giant agency. It’s actually called “Super Agency” in the draft.

That’s a bad idea.

I get certain parts of this government have fallen prone to the cult of efficiency, but it didn’t save money or bureaucracy with the municipal mergers and it won’t here.

The draft legislation would also give this “Super Agency” vast and sweeping powers to merge, shut down or amalgamate services or “entities,” meaning your local hospital.

That is too much power and this is where the NDP should fight and where the government should change its mind, not on the allowing private delivery in the public system.