The Ontario Council Of Hospital Unions

October 10, 2013 15:08 ET

Health minister should listen to concerns, stop expansion of private clinics, scrap changes to legislation

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Oct. 10, 2013) - Surgeries, procedures and other health care services now available at local hospitals will soon be hived-off into private, possibly for-profit clinics unless the Ontario Liberal government takes a sober second-look at the possible adverse consequences of cutting more services from hospitals, warns Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

"Instead of dismissing genuine concerns about unsafe practices and unwarranted extra patient fees at private surgery clinics, Ontario's health minister should scrap changes aimed at expanding private clinics for services that are currently available in highly-regulated public hospitals," says Hurley.

Because the regulatory changes to facilitate increasing involvement of private, out-of-hospital clinics do not require approval from the Ontario Legislature, the Liberal government is forging ahead with virtually no open discussion with Ontarians. The only opportunity afforded the public for comment is a little-known online feedback process. The deadline for comments is tomorrow October 11.

There are many reasons for the provincial health minister to scrap the proposed regulatory changes and stop the expansion of private clinics, says Hurley, among them, the dismal experiences with independent clinics of the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) and British Columbia.

The US Congress suspended Medicare funding to private clinics after numerous preventable deaths. In the UK the government pays private clinics more than they do public hospitals even though they cherry pick easier to treat patients, leaving those with higher medical needs to public hospitals. In April 2012, an audit of the private Cambie Clinic in British Columbia found close to $500,000 in illegal extra billing and $66,000 in double billing within a 30-day period.

Currently there are over 800 independent health facilities in Ontario. Although they receive public dollars, the majority are, for-profit operations and there is little or no public disclosure about how much provincial funding they get.

OCHU filed several freedom of information (FOI) requests in the spring of 2012 pertaining to funding arrangements between the province and an independent clinic for the provision of cataract surgeries, associated capital costs, operating costs and fee payments since 2006. "The ministry of health is keeping this information secret. Despite repeated attempts and appeals on our part to access the information, the ministry of health has refused to disclose how much public funding has been allocated to the clinic. Ontarians have a right to know how public dollars are spent," says Hurley.

Contact Information

  • Michael Hurley
    President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU)

    Stella Yeadon
    Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Communications