Ontario health minister won’t rule out privatization to help hospital crisis

Ontario's Minister of Health says the province is looking at several options - that in a reply to a question about privatizing health care.

By Lucas Casaletto

Ontario’s health minister isn’t ruling out privatization in health care as the government looks at ways to deal with a significant staff shortage straining hospitals across the province.

When asked if the government is considering privatization, Sylvia Jones said, “all options are on the table.”

“We’re making sure that as a system, it’s not going to hurt or impact another part of the health-care sector,” Jones told reporters on Wednesday.

“Look, we have always had a public health-care system in the province of Ontario, and we will continue to. Are we going to look at options? Absolutely. There are jurisdictions in other parts of Canada and the world that have other opportunities that we will look at.”

Emergency departments across Ontario have had to close for hours or days at a time this summer, which health-care officials say is due to a nurse staffing crisis.

Nursing groups, hospital executives and other health-care professionals and advocates have said that burnout after being on the COVID-19 front lines for more than two years and not being adequately compensated have caused people to leave the profession in droves, leading to some hospitals being unable to staff emergency departments properly.

Jones said she has been in talks with hospital corporations across the province in an effort to fix the problem.


The health minister sent directives Thursday to the College of Nurses of Ontario and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, directing them to make every effort to register those nurses and doctors “as expeditiously as possible” so they can practice in the province and provide reports in two weeks on how they will accomplish that.

Jones said the government is exploring “innovation and opportunities” in Ontario and is considering changes to the health system but did not specify what those would be.

Advocates have urged Premier Doug Ford to repeal the public sector wage restraint legislation he introduced in 2019, saying it harms efforts to recruit and retain nurses.

More recent figures and data from Health Quality Ontario, an agency created by the government to connect and coordinate the healthcare system to ensure Ontarians receive the best possible care, show that in May, patients waited an average of 2.1 hours for a first assessment by an ER doctor.

The average wait time to get admitted to a hospital was 20.1 hours, the highest on record.

With files from The Canadian Press

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