ON January 16, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to significantly expand the use of private healthcare clinics to perform public health services, in a bid to deal with backlogs and delays in a healthcare system strained by the coronavirus pandemic. Ontario’s public health insurance program will reimburse members of the public who use private clinics.
Critics and public health advocates have argued expanding the use of private providers is a step towards privatizing the public health system, and risks cannibalizing a healthcare workforce already facing a shortage. Health sector vacancy rates are the highest they have been in years.
Port Dover resident Dr. Gail Heald-Taylor counts herself among the concerned, and is taking action.
Dr. Heald-Taylor, whose doctorate is in education, has organized a public meeting for people who wish to express their concerns about the state of healthcare in Ontario, share their personal experiences, and access information about public healthcare.
Attendees will receive factsheets from the Ontario Health Coalition, a non-partisan network that works to strengthen the principles of the Canada Health Act. The coalition represents more than 500 member organizations and individuals.
Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Bobbi Ann Brady has confirmed she will attend the event and participate in the discussions. Norfolk County Ward 6 Councilor Adam Veri will also attend to hear concerns in support of Dr. Heald-Taylor’s initiative.
“It takes a lot of effort to lead a community project like this,” Coun. Veri said. “I hope concerned citizens take this opportunity to be heard, and to acknowledge Gail for the work she put into pulling this meeting together.”
Dr. Heald-Taylor is drawing inspiration from her dad, who was passionate about politics and universal healthcare.
“There were many health issues in my family when I was a child,” she recalled. “My parents seemed to always be paying family medical bills, and it was expensive.”
Dr. Heald-Taylor remembers that her father’s activism and political involvement brought Tommy Douglas, widely regarded as the father of Medicare in Canada, to her family’s home for a visit when she was eight years old.
“My mother had her fine crystal out, and I had never even seen it before,” she recalled. “At one point, we ran out of milk at the table, and I was told to go get more. I came back with the bottle, and my mother was horrified. She went to all this trouble to make a good impression, and here I am with a milk bottle. Mr. Douglas leaned in and said to me that it was alright, he drank out of a milk bottle too.”
Dr. Heald-Taylor would ultimately like to see healthcare depoliticized.
“Healthcare shouldn’t be a question of politics,” she explained. “People shouldn’t die because they can’t access healthcare, and they shouldn’t go broke or be in-debt because of medical bills either.”
Dr. Heald-Taylor, who will turn 84 in October, had a heart attack last year. Without Medicare, she said she would have been facing a $100,000 debt for the care she received.
Dr. Heald-Taylor isn’t sure how many to expect at the meeting, but she said taking action has been rewarding in its own right.
“Oh, I’d be happy if anyone came,” she said. “But I feel energized just doing this. Many people are concerned about the state of healthcare in Ontario, but what are we going to do about it? Planning this meeting has helped me find my voice.”
The public meeting is Monday, March 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Port Dover Community Centre, 801 St. George Street. There is no requirement to offer any medical or personal information of any kind. Members of the public are not required to speak or share any details; anyone is welcome to just come and listen.
For more information about the Ontario Health Coalition, visit www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca.
Originally published March 8, 2023