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People's referendum vote on privatization in Stratford

In-person voting opens today and continues Saturday
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Starting today, Ontario residents have the opportunity to vote on a province-wide citizen-run referendum initiated by the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) regarding privatized health care.

Two polling stations are set up in Stratford for in-person voting today and tomorrow (May 26 and 27); St. Paul's Anglican Church on Douro Street and the Falstaff Family Centre on Waterloo Street. Polls will be open from 3 to 8 p.m. today and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Voting is also available online.

On May 8 of this year, the Ford government passed Bill 60, which enables private corporations to tender for for-profit surgical clinics. The OHC and its supporters hope that a public rally in support a single publicly-funded hospital system will stop the policy from being enacted.

A group of local volunteers has joined the OHC's efforts to preserve public health care.

“People are concerned about the state of our health care system. They have been told that private surgical clinics are the only solution to the serious problem of long waiting lists for procedures such as cataract and hip replacement surgeries. But this is not true," says recent Stratford Municipal Council candidate, Geoff Krauter, in a news release.

"Stratford, like everywhere in Ontario, has surgical capacity that is not being funded. We have surgery rooms sitting idle – and doctors and nurses who could be using them to take care of the backlog of surgeries. Instead of funding new for-profit clinics, our government should be providing adequate funding to our existing hospitals. Ontario funds hospitals at the lowest rate in Canada. If we funded our health care even to the average of Canada, we could clear up the backlog of surgeries that Ontarians have been waiting for.”

The Stratford volunteer group is concerned that for-profit health care facilities will make it difficult for rural citizens to receive the care they need.

"For-profit clinics are not going to be located in small rural settings; they are going to be in cities," the release says. "If they draw doctors and nurses away from the rural public system, we are just going to see more small hospitals have to close beds, emergency rooms, and maybe even their doors."