Monday, May 27, 2024

Ford govt illegally expanded private hospital, lied to public: Ontario Health Coalition

The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) and Democracy Watch are calling out the Doug Ford government for its alleged illegal expansion of a for-profit hospital known as Don Mills Surgical Unit during Christine Elliott’s tenure as Health Minister.

OHC held a press conference along with legal expert on conflict of interest and integrity legislation, Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, to release their findings and lay out what the government and Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner must do in response.

In its statement submitted via Globe Newswire, the Coalition says that Don Mills Surgical Unit (now owned by Clearpoint) was expanded from three operating rooms in 2019 and mainly outpatient surgery unit, into a 20-bed inpatient unit hospital with 6 operating rooms and 7 recovery bays currently.

“The expansion of the remaining two private for-profit hospitals is expressly forbidden under the Private Hospitals Act, which banned any new private hospitals in 1971 and barred the expansion of the existing few that were grandfathered in,” stated Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “For-profit hospitals were banned for good reason and it is unlawful to expand them.”

Mehra says that the Ford government expressly denied such expansion leading into the last election, even while they were doing it.

“The fact that the former Health Minister expanded a for-profit hospital, gave them an extraordinary funding increase of 278%, and the government is paying them more than double the rate of our public hospitals for the same procedures is terrible public policy,” Mehra continued. “Add to that, the former Minister has now registered to be a lobbyist for Clearpoint, the parent company of the private hospital, and it rises to the level of very serious questions that must be answered by the Ford government about integrity and ethics.”

Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher says that Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake has refused for the past seven years to enforce the clear rule in Ontario’s lobbying law that prohibits lobbyists from placing politicians and public officials in a real or potential conflict of interest, and has let dozens of lobbyists, including Christine Elliott, violate this rule and corrupt provincial government policy and spending decision-making processes.

“Democracy Watch has filed several lawsuits challenging Commissioner Wake’s negligently bad rulings, but he should not wait for the courts to strike down his rulings and should instead do the right thing by making it clear that anyone who has been a Cabinet minister or worked for the Premier or a minister cannot lobby the government for several years afterwards, and anyone who has assisted, fundraised, campaigned or worked for any political party, politician or their riding association cannot lobby them for several years afterwards,” Conacher said in the joint statement with OHC.

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