Hospital workers across the province are voicing their opposition to Bill 60, citing concerns about budget cuts and a tiered healthcare system.
The Ford government introduced Bill 60 in February. If it is passed, it will allow more private clinics to open and proceed with OHIP-covered surgeries and diagnostic services.
Before the bill was introduced, Premier Doug Ford confirmed that the expansion of publicly funded medical procedures at private clinics would be permanent.
On Thursday, hospital professionals represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) held rallies outside of several hospitals across Ontario, including Sarnia's Bluewater Health, and London's Victoria Hospital, University Hospital, and St. Joseph's Hospital.
Bluewater Health Local 145 Chair Philip Hodgetts said one of the biggest issues they have with Bill 60 is the allowance for the Ontario government to deregulate some health professions.
"There is a move inside of that bill that allows the government to, in the private clinics, allow what's called deregularization," he said. "So doctors, nurses, laboratory people, x-ray people, respiratory people, all of us are regulated by colleges within the province and these colleges oversee and make sure that we have full training, adequate training, and that we have the correct credentials to be able to perform those services. The government is pushing that they would allow some deregularization which would allow people without the actual credentials to be able to perform diagnostic services, as well as some of the doctor and nursing duties."
Hodgetts said OPSEU members are big supporters of public services being delivered in public hospitals and are concerned that privatization will lead to a tiered system.
"If you have private clinics there are going to be costs involved with them. One of the things private clinics will do is say, 'Well, sell two different levels.' So they will allow someone to purchase a higher level of service or standard, which means that people within the province are treated differently," he said.
Hodgetts also said OPSEU has been communicating with the Ontario Health Coalition, which has long spoken out against the threat of hospital privatization.
As specified on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario's website, the third reading of Bill 60 is currently being debated. After a third reading is adopted, there are two other steps before a bill comes into force.
-With files from Colin Gowdy