For-profit private health care under fire in new report from Canada's nurses

    OTTAWA, Oct. 6 /CNW Telbec/ - There is no evidence to support claims that
increasing for-profit private elements in Canadian health care will improve
care or reduce cost, according to a new report released on the eve of a
National Day of Action for Medicare. The report written for the Canadian
Federation of Nurses Unions, is a summary of the private versus public health
care debate in Canada, reviewing the evidence for and against increasing
private for-profit health care.
    "For-profit private health care takes away from the public system. It is
not a solution but a huge problem. We need to move forward with public health
care, not backwards. For profit private health care is a huge step back," says
Linda Silas, RN, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.
    The report reviews the arguments of those advocating for more for-profit
diagnostic and surgical clinics, the construction of health infrastructure by
corporate investors (P3s), the introduction of fees or co-payments to health
services and the role of private insurance to fund patient services. Evidence
from international experiments with privatization is contrasted with these
claims. The conclusion is that there is no such thing as a parallel system.
More for-profit private health care cannot exist as an add-on as it takes away
from Canadians.
    "In 2002, Romanow himself looked for evidence of benefits of for-profit
health care and could not find it. Today, Canada's nurses cannot either.
Nurses know the challenges of the public healthcare system better than most,
and these problems are small compared to what we will see if there is more
for-profit care in this country," warned Silas.
    The report was commissioned by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
(CFNU) and written by independent writer Marc Young. CFNU represents
158,000 nurses.
    "For-profit health care is about shareholders, not about patient care or
safety or even saving public money," concludes Linda Silas.
    The National Day of Action for Medicare was declared by the Canadian
Health Coalition and provincial health coalitions to sound an alarm that our
public healthcare system is disappearing unless there is more government
    For-profit health care: A road paved with gold and doubtful intentions is
available for free download from the CFNU website, For a copy of
the book, please call CFNU's office at 1-800-321-9821.

    For-profit health care: A road paved with gold and doubtful intentions
        A report released by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions

                   Some facts and figures from the report

    Private healthcare costs

       - Canada spends more on private health care than France, Sweden, Italy
         or Germany (p.25).
       - Private healthcare costs are increasing faster than public
         healthcare costs in Canada (p.25).
       - Canada's national health insurance program has an overhead of 1.3%
         while Canada's private insurers have an overhead at 13.2% (p.23).
       - The average annual health insurance premium for a family in the US
         stood at $11,480 in 2006 (p. 41).
       - The annual increase in prescription drug costs could have financed
         3,500 new physicians every year (p. 19).
       - 3.5 million Canadians are not insured or underinsured for essential
         medicines (p. 20).

    Wait times

       - Expansion of for-profit surgical clinics in New Zealand and
         Australia dramatically increased wait lists for the same treatments
         in the public system (p.28).
       - Reorganization of public healthcare system is reducing wait times
         drastically (p.35).
       - The economic cost of wait times, as measured by the Canadian Medical
         Association, is overwhelmingly based on waits for MRIs and not on
         waits for joint, cataract and heart surgeries. Taking out MRIs from
         the calculation, the cost drops from $13.8 billion to $1 billion.
         This is significant as there is a question of the overuse of this
         novel technology rather than under-capacity (p. 13-15).
       - When the patient lists used to create wait times statistics were
         examined by a study in Alberta, it was found that between 25% and
         almost 40% of those on the lists were not waiting for any procedure
         (p. 35).
       - There are solutions to be found within the public system: The public
         system in pilot projects through better management of wait lists was
         able to cut the waiting time by three quarters (p. 36).

       - Public-private partnerships for infrastructure in the UK have seen
         profit margins reaching  25% and cost overruns of up to 72% (p. 51).
       - Brampton, Ontario, built a P3 hospital. It was supposed to cost $95
         million and have 284  beds. When it opened it had 188 beds and cost
         $146 million (p. 53).
       - It costs the private sector 1-4% more to borrow than the public
         sector (p. 50).

For further information:

For further information: CFNU Communications: (613) 526-4661; Deanna
MacArthur, cell: (613) 889-5213,; Sean
Dillon-Fordyce, cell: (613) 277-4757,

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Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions

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