The Haliburton Highlands LongTerm Care Coalition gathered near the Minden hospital May 4 to promote an upcoming Ontario-wide referendum on privatization of the province’s public hospitals.

Spokesperson Bonnie Roe said they’re connected to the Ontario Health Coalition, which is spearheading the effort May 26 and 27.

“Every community will be having a voting station,” Roe said, adding, “we are so happy we have 29. Some big towns only have two or three so far.”

She believes that is indicative of community support.

Roe provided a few examples of why her group and the Ontario Health Coalition is concerned with the way the province appears to be heading.

“Ontario spends the lowest amount of money on health care of any other province in Canada. Our current government refuses to withdraw Bill 124 and enable our nurses to receive a decent salary and be respected. Bill 60 is being passed to give this government more power, not that it needs it, and give citizens less power. This is being done without community engagement and with no democratic process. It’s just not appropriate.”

She touched on the closure of ERs across the province, including one announced for Minden effective June 1.

Roe added it’s been “proven that private for-profit clinics are not the best way to go. They are not cheaper. They often double bill … there are many stats that say they don’t only double bill, they bill OHIP and they bill the patient and charge them two and three times what it would be charged if it was going through our OHIP. It totally contravenes the Canada Health Act.

“That’s why we’re here. We need to fight against that. Because it’s no longer a slippery, slippery slope. It’s a whole collapse of this system and we’ve got to really make this referendum work.”

Online voting started May 2 and there is a QR code on a flyer the coalition is handing out. Voting stations will be set up across the Highlands May 26-27. The referendum question reads ‘do you want our public hospital services to be privatized to for-profit hospitals and clinics? Yes, or no?’

“We’re really trying to promote, let’s go Haliburton (County). Let’s do this,” Roe said.

For more information, email or call Roe at 705-457-6579.