Nurses know the ‘Your Health Act’ is anything but good for your health

Nurses know that the health system is struggling. Long wait times and a severe nursing and health-care professional shortage are two of the challenges patients face.

Enter the Ford government and Bill 60, Your Health Act. The bill allows far more private, for-profit providers to perform surgical procedures and diagnostic tests, billed to OHIP.

Bill 60 has alarmed and horrified Ontario nurses and other health-care providers. As with everything this government does, the devil is in the details. And the details are chilling.

I have been an emergency department registered nurse (RN) for decades. Many of Ontario’s most experienced RNs began their careers during the last Conservative government’s tenure, under Premier Mike Harris. His government, which lasted from 1995 to 2002, cut thousands of RNs from hospitals, closed hospitals, introduced private, for-profit companies into the system to provide home care and long-term care, and set the stage for what the Ford government is doing today.

Many RNs who lost their jobs left the province to practice in the U.S. Their stories of the reality of for-profit health care are frightening. Procedures there cost patients and insurance companies far, far more than in Ontario’s non-profit, publicly funded and delivered health-care system.

Nurses want to focus on providing quality patient care, not cutting corners to maximize shareholder profit. That is why some nurses returned to practice in Ontario when the Harris-era cuts were reversed.

Today, Bill 60 opens the floodgates to more private companies performing procedures like knee and hip replacements, cataract surgeries and diagnostics.

Publicly funded and delivered health-care services are cost-effective, safe and equitable. Private delivery of health care has failed to deliver everywhere it has been tried.

Private delivery of health care has failed to deliver everywhere it has been tried.

Taking our tax dollars and enriching business owners – like private nursing agencies, for-profit clinics and other businesses – is bad for your health and bad for the budget. The most broken parts of Ontario’s health-care system, long-term care and home care, are those largely delivered by private companies.

Private, for-profit care utterly fails to reduce wait times, clear surgical backlogs or improve patient outcomes. A groundbreaking report found that in Alberta, for-profit outsourcing failed to reduce wait times, and in some cases, actually increased them. It did not increase surgical capacity in hospitals, it reduced it.

Private clinics put a priority on profit, not patients. They reject caring for patients with more serious or complex conditions, leaving behind those with the most need.

Among its many faults, Bill 60 waters down regulations and oversight, providing no confidence that the clinics are properly regulated by the Ministry of Health directly and that information gathered during licensing will be available for public scrutiny.

The bill makes it possible to change the definition of a nurse. Instead of leaving it to the regulatory college to determine who is licensed to work as a nurse, the government has given itself the power to do so.

There are good reasons behind the strict regulations governing nursing and other health-care professions – to protect patients. This government is changing the safeguards around the level of education and skill that workers must have to perform specific care tasks and changing regulations to authorize people without that education to perform.

For instance, an unregulated worker could theoretically administer some medications and provide wound care, among other things. This is unfair to those workers and unsafe for patients.

Allowing private companies to profit from people’s health-care needs will not solve the staffing crisis, it will make it worse.

Year after year, the Ford government has cut health-care spending, when factoring in inflation. Reports from Ontario’s Independent Financial Accountability Office show the government is underspending its planned budget in health care by billions each year – at a time when short-staffed ERs are closing doors, surgical wait times are growing, and Ontario is short 24,000 RNs. The one line item that Ford keeps increasing is public spending at private clinics.

As the report from the Financial Accountability Office shows, this government has $4.4 billion in excess funds for health care. For the benefit of patients, the funds should be directed to pay public-sector nurses and health-care professionals fairly and keep ERs open. Tragically, in Doug Ford’s Ontario, it will likely be directed to his rich business friends instead.

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Erin Ariss


Erin Ariss, RN, is the Provincial President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association.

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