“Ontarians are not turkeys and their private health records are confidential, containing information that should not be plucked for its potential asset value to the provincial Liberal government,” says Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE (OCHU). “It is undemocratic to try and slide this major policy shift under the radar while many Ontarians are focused on celebrating Thanksgiving with their families and friends.”

On Friday, the Kathleen Wynne government asked the banker who recommended the sale of Ontario Hydro to “assess and validate the value” of e-Health medical information (Ontarians’ personal medical records) and related intellectual property and infrastructure systems and to recommend ways to “take them to the next level”. 

Despite the announcement on the eve of a holiday weekend, the potential privatization of patient records is garnering criticism. “This,” says Hurley, “is a result of the sorry record of this government’s forays into privatization in health care, always with enormous cost overruns. The experience with Ornge, eHealth and P3 hospitals will be repeated here, with the added threat of the disclosure or sale of our personal medical information. This is a very sordid form of privatization,” says Hurley.

OCHU is the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 35,000 hospital staff, many of whom work daily with confidential patient information.

The Ontario Healthcare Coalition has said that the privatization of patient records puts their confidentiality at risk. The U.S. Patriot Act enables U.S. security agencies to access private records of companies that operate in the U.S., including international private records held by those companies. This issue has been the subject of a ruling by the B.C Privacy Commissioner.

“Premier Wynne’s advisor is an expert in marketization of assets. He has been asked to unlock the value in our confidential medical histories. We can predict that any privatization will be much more expensive to taxpayers than the status quo and that personal information will be disclosed. I think hospital workers will have to draw a line in the sand here, as I am sure the public will,” says Hurley.