The “Wild West” of private healthcare in Ontario

By Stuart Ryan  

In September 2023 media reports by CTV and the Ottawa Citizen revealed that a private primary care service provided by nurses was operating in Ottawa’s South Keys area. The media report revealed that people who were desperate to get primary healthcare were being charged $400 a year to use the facilities.

When asked by media in Toronto about this practice, Ontario’s Health Minister Sylvia Jones said that the Ontario government would start “an immediate investigation of the South Keys operation.” As of today, no such investigation has taken place, and the clinic is still operating.

Recognizing that charging fees for access to insured physician services is a violation of both the Canada Health Act and the Ontario Commitment to the Future Medicare Act, the Ottawa Health Coalition and the Ontario Health Coalition have publicly challenged the Ontario government to enforce these laws and close down the South Keys clinic. Needless to say, the Ford government has not done so. Premier Ford was in Ottawa on April 2 announcing some housing money for Ottawa, but he did not say anything about the South Keys situation or Minister Jones’ investigation.

Given that the Ontario government had not done its investigation of the South Keys clinic, the Ottawa Health Coalition has done its own investigation. On March 8, 2024 the Ottawa Health Coalition and the Ontario Health Coalition to which it is affiliated, issued a joint report on the ownership and the practices of the South Keys nursing establishment operation.

The report reveals that one of the directors and presumed owners of the South Keys clinic was also the owner of Ideal therapy and Horizon Health Centre in Toronto. He was convicted of insurance fraud in 2007 and ordered to pay fines totaling over $180,000. He was also forbidden from operating such enterprises for two years.

Corporate records indicate that this same individual moved to Ottawa after his fraud convictions in Toronto and began to work at and eventually own and manage several used-car dealerships and repair shops, including Quality Auto Body and AutoSmart Ottawa. Two of these operations have closed down but Quality and AutoSmart continue to operate.

This same individual manager and his long-time associate Akram Almuradi are now also listed respectively as named directors of the South Key Health Center and a second multi-service Ottawa clinic called Neuromotion Therapy. Almuradi was convicted on December 13, 2023 of sexually assaulting a massage client at Neuromotion Therapy. He now awaits sentencing for this serious conviction.

An examination of the South Keys clinic website reveals that it listed a number of health service providers who either no longer worked at the centre or had never heard of the health clinic. A psychologist who was listed on the South Keys roster, Dr. Kerry Lawson, has been formally disciplined by the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO) for actively promoting the interests of an insurance company in a claim by the victim of a motorcycle accident.

Health coalition researcher Kevin Skerrett says, “the details in this report reveal the consequences of the Ford government’s policies that have allowed more and more vital health services to be owned by profit-driven business people and investors who lack a social commitment to the provision of healthcare. Along with actually ‘shutting down bad actors’ as Health Minister Sylvia Jones promised in October 2023, this broader problem must be addressed through ending the for-profit privatization of primary care that has accelerated significantly under the Ford government, and by establishing public and not-for-profit health teams with strong public oversight.”

For more information: ottawahealthco <at>

[Photo of ballots from Ontario Health Coalition referendum on health privatization: Ottawa Health Coalition X]

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