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Thousands cast their ballots in community-referendum on hospital privatization in Ontario

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A "community-led" referendum is asking thousands of Ontarians to weigh in on whether the privatization of the province's healthcare system is good for the future.

Thousands of ballot boxes were placed in communities across Ontario on Friday and Saturday by the Ontario Health Coalition, asking residents to cast their ballots on whether they're for or against privatized care.

"I wanted to vote today (Saturday) because I think privatizing our public health system is completely wrong," said Lucille Trickett, a Simcoe County resident who went to cast her ballot in Barrie. "I lived in the United States for four years for work and had the unfortunate experience of having to go to the E.R., and when I got checked in, they immediately came up with a cart and asked for my credit card."

Simcoe County Health Coalition officials said the vote is part of a month-long campaign to educate the public about Bill 60, also known as the Your Health Act.

"There's been quite a few in the public who don't know exactly what's going on," said Daniel Burgoyne with the Simcoe County Health Coalition. "We've been finding a lot of the younger population especially. They're just kind of out of touch with that. But it is something to be known. It is going to be affecting us going forward."

Under the bill, for-profit and not-for-profit clinics will be allowed to conduct cataract surgeries, MRI and C.T. scans, minimally invasive gynecological surgeries, and knee and hip replacements under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

“Our government's Your Health Act strengthens the oversight of community surgical settings while protecting the stability of doctors, nurses and other health-care workers in our healthcare system," reads a statement from the Ministry of Health. "Bill 60 also strengthens the already robust framework for the oversight of community and surgical diagnostic centres, including a provision to bring these centres under the oversight of a patient ombudsman, and puts into law that Ontarians will always access insured services at community surgical and diagnostic centres with their OHIP card and never their credit card, consistent with the Canada Health Act."

Saturday was the final day to vote in the referendum. Locally, the health coalition hopes it collected at least 5,000 votes before revealing its results on Tuesday.

Provincially, the Ontario Health Coalition aimed to have over 1 million people cast their ballots.  

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