Centric claims physiotherapy funding decision will have little impact on its private clinics

It came as no surprise that the private designated OHIP physiotherapy clinics failed in their legal bid to use a judicial review to slow down plans to transfer their publicly funded patients to the Community Care Access Centres.

While the government actions may have been legal, the rushed process has definitely left much to be desired. Whether the CCACs can absorb the influx of so many new physiotherapy patients beginning today is an open question. At least one company in question is also suggesting in the wake of the decision that much of that CCAC work will be coming directly back to them.

Centric Health – one of four corporations that dominate ownership of the for-profit clinics — issued a press release yesterday saying the impact of the government’s changes would be about six per cent of consolidated revenue – or about $27 million.

Centric points out that much of the money being reallocated to the long-term care homes will be coming back to them.

“The vast majority of the Company’s existing Long-Term Care Homes have verbally committed to continuing to outsource their physiotherapy service contracts with Centric Health under the new funding model,” the company’s release stated.

The release goes on to state the funding model will have “little to no negative impact on the Company’s 105 owned and 36 network physiotherapy clinics across Canada.”

This makes us wonder about the warnings by the association representing the designated OHIP clinics when they suggest the changes could affect as many as 3,000 jobs.

Initially the government promoted the idea that the changes would make the province less reliant on a small number of for-profit providers. “Until now, a small number of for-profit companies have had almost exclusive control over the delivery of publicly funded physiotherapy,” their initial release stated.

Centric’s release suggests this could yet again turn out to be the case.

More disturbing are government claims that the previous model encouraged waste and fraud, the Toronto Star reporting that for-profit clinics billed the public insurance plan for one-on-one physiotherapy sessions that were actually group exercise classes led by, in some circumstances, individuals who were not qualified physiotherapists.

Unlike the United States, where fraud cases make front page news, health care fraud in Canada goes largely underreported.

We don’t know whether the Ministry prosecuted these companies or whether they were given a wrap on the knuckles and told not to do it again. Without that information, the public is left not only wondering whether justice was ever done, but how widespread are such practices? It also tars all health providers with that same brush, a situation in which honest administrators should be seething.

Deb Matthews predictably crowed that the court decision means they can move forward with their plan to “improve physiotherapy services to 200,000 seniors,” although the Ministry has been vague about how this will take place. They note in their own leaflets that the funding changes will mean 60,000 more people will get physiotherapy in the home and another 90,000 will receive expanded services in community clinics. Many of these same clinics are providing classes and one-on-one physiotherapy for long-term care and retirement home clients.

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