Private Clinic Aligns with Conservatives in Misleading Campaign to Privatize Health System



    TORONTO, March 22 /CNW Telbec/ - The Ontario Health Coalition expressed
deep concern about the misleading pre-election campaign underway by a
for-profit surgical clinic and the Conservative Party. Yesterday's Globe and
Mail contained a front-page story claiming that the for-profit clinic is
bidding for hip and knee surgeries at a cheaper rate than public non-profit
hospitals. The well-orchestrated privatization campaign claims that the
provincial government's denial of a contract to the clinic is a refusal to
reduce waiting lists.
    "John Tory is engaging in a dangerous and disingenuous game of political
bullying," said Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition. "The
Conservatives' "damn-the-consequences" approach to health care privatization
is astoundingly short-sighted. John Tory's Conservatives aligned with a set of
vested interests that pose a significant threat to the public health system.
As we have seen across Canada and around the world, private clinics damage the
public system. They cost more and take scarce health professionals out of the
public system."
    "Not only do for-profit surgical centres siphon key personnel away from
regional public hospitals, they also "cherry-pick" the easy cases leaving
public hospitals struggling with less staff to care for the heavy care
patients. The chief of staff and other personnel in the Don Mills Surgical
Centre are already splitting their time between public non-profit hospitals
and their private business," noted Ross Sutherland, RN. "If you actually
compare apples and apples - cases of similar complexity -- the private clinics
cost more. Any complications - infections, bleeding, or patients who need
intensive medical support - will be transferred to the public system. Training
costs are borne by the public system. The private clinic does not have to pay
for its errors, it simply takes public money for profit-seeking purposes. The
overwhelming evidence is that - when not campaigning for privatization just
before an election - private surgical clinics charge more than non-profit
hospitals for the same procedures."

    For a list of cost-comparisons, see our press release sent out on
    March 16 at www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca


    Ontario Health Coalition Backgrounder on Private Clinics -

    Evidence from the system-wide experiment in Britain

    In a letter sent by the British National Health Service Physician's
President to the Canadian Medical Association in August 2005, the British
doctors warned against the incursion of private clinics:
    "We are writing, as British doctors, to share what we have learned
first-hand about the dangers of private sector involvement in health care, in
the hopes that our colleagues in Canada can learn from our country's mistakes
and reject private care and other market-style policies.
    Short-term improvements in easily counted and politically important areas
like waiting lists are being achieved by expensive deals with the private
sector. These include not only using spare capacity in existing private
facilities, but now the establishment of "independent sector treatment
centres" (ISTCs), often owned and staffed by foreign commercial concerns.
    These ISTCs are offered long-term contracts with guaranteed income at
costs up to 40% higher than the NHS. They "cherry pick" the simple cases and
have little responsibility for complications or follow up. Their clinical
governance arrangements are currently unclear and there are already concerns
about the quality of care in ISTCs.
    The removal of much elective surgery from the NHS is putting training in
some specialities at risk. Because fewer of the low-risk cases are being seen
in NHS hospitals, young surgeons are no longer getting the training they need.
In addition, the concentration on short-term episodic care is diverting
attention and funds from the majority of patients, whose needs are for the
longer-term management of chronic disease or disability.
    The concept was initially "sold" as a short-term measure to tackle the
backlog until the NHS was able to take on all its commitments but it is now
clear that the government intends the growing private sector to remain and
compete with the publicly provided NHS, frequently on an unfair basis....
    Beware the recurrent reorganisations which we have suffered over the
years, which have damaged the morale of both clinicians and managers whilst
totally bewildering patients and harming care. The most cost-effective system
is the simplest: an organisation with a budget to provide services for the
people of its area and democratically accountable to them." (Letter from Drs.
Peter Fisher and Jacky Davis, NHS Consultants Association, August 15, 2005 at
www.healthcoalition.ca/cmabma.pdf).




For further information:

For further information: Natalie Mehra, (416) 230-6402

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