Health Coalition has a point …

By on April 10, 2014

The Ontario government’s plan to change the ownership, governance and control regimes for clinical services from public hospitals to private clinics has long-term implications for equity and access to care. There are improvements that could be made, but public hospitals operate under public governance regimes, that have protected the public interest in key aspects. Quality of care and access to information regimes, though they could have been significantly better, are still far superior in public hospitals than in private clinics. Importantly, public hospitals uphold the equity of our single-tier public medicare system and control costs for patients, while private clinics pose a significant threat to these. There are other significant issues such as the negative impact of private clinics as they take scarce human resources and funding out of the hospital system, and the impact on patient travel distances and costs of centralizing high volumes of procedures into specialty centres.

The Minister of Health has the power to more effectively monitor and curtail the extra-billing and user fees that are proliferating in the existing private clinics in Ontario. This will be a continual challenge as clinics adapt to new regulations and oversight and find ways to circumvent the Canada Health Act and Ontario legislation to increase their revenues and their profits. Regardless, the Minister has an obligation to set a much less tolerant tone than she has done to date, and can much more effectively use the resources of her Ministry to take action against the clinics that are violating medical ethics and undermining Public Medicare. Given the evidence, expanding the private clinics sector will worsen the problem of regulating, monitoring and enforcing the prohibition on extra-billing and user fees.

The Ontario Government has the ability to set up specialty centres under its existing public hospitals. It has never answered as to why it has chosen to transfer ownership and control of clinical services to private clinics. The decision has profound implications for quality of care and equity. Given the lack of proper regulation, oversight, monitoring and enforcement; and given the evidence of extra-billing, user fees, high-costs, misinformation and “upselling” to increase profits at the expense of patients; the government should reconsider its proposal to transfer the ownership of vital health care services to these providers and should instead ensure that reform happens only under the Public Hospitals Act.

For more information: contact Peter Bergmanis 519-860-4403; Jeff Hanks 226-448-3067; 620 Richmond St;

The London Health Coalition

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