TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 3, 2012) - Today's report - the first of its kind - that found nine private medical procedures clinics are providing subpar, inferior care and that over a quarter of them are deficient in some way, should be a wake-up for Ontario's Liberal government poised to aggressively expand the private clinic model, says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
To better protect Ontarians the health minister must first "tell us who they are." While letting the public know the names of the clinics providing "slip-shod, unsafe procedures is a first step," Hurley says the provincial government must do more, including making the now voluntary inspections, compulsory.
"The inspection report raises many questions about the health and safety risks for patients accessing medical procedures like colonoscopies outside of hospital at private clinics. Ontarians should be greatly concerned that the health minister is effusive about closing hospital clinics while opening new shopping mall-based clinics like kidney dialysis centers. Low-rent, cut-rate health services at the local mall may not be the best way to deliver quality care and protect patients from risks," says Hurley. Research clearly shows that death rates are higher at private, for-profit dialysis clinics, he adds.
Ontario's public hospitals are subject to intense scrutiny, and regulatory and inspection processes intended to keep patients safe. Hospitals must now report the rates of hospital acquired infections (HAIs). There is no similar reporting required for private clinics. "A patient going in to have cataract surgery at one of these private clinics - which do receive public health care money - has no idea what the clinic's rate of infection is or how many surgeries go awry. There is simply no transparency," say Hurley.
Increasing provincial regulatory oversight would better protect Ontarians from unsafe practices at existing private medical procedure clinics, Hurley says. Inspections should also be done by a provincial ministry or agency, not a regulatory college for doctors, since doctors are often the primary owner-operators of these private clinics. "The inspection system we have now is akin to putting the fox in charge of the hen house," says Hurley.
OCHU has, for many years campaigned for lower HAI death rates and advocated for increased hospital transparency and accountability in the reporting of HAI rates.