Tag Archives: Privatization

Today’s big demonstration at Queen’s Park

Picture of an OPSEU flag at a rally.

Wouldn’t it be great to tell your grandchildren you played a role in protecting Canada’s Medicare system? Come to today’s rally at Noon and stand up for public health care.

Today will likely be the biggest Ontario Health Coalition demonstration at Queen’s Park since 2008.

Across Ontario seniors groups, union activists and family members frustrated with their own access to care will be boarding more than 40 buses, some in the pre-dawn darkness on an abnormally cold November morning.

The coalition has spent weeks organizing the day’s event to convince the Wynne government that privatizing more hospital services is not the road to good quality care or sustainable long term costs.

When: Friday, November 21 / 12 Noon
Where: Queen’s Park and University Avenue

Last spring the government was set to begin competitions for hospital services. Theoretically these competitions were to be between not-for-profit private clinics and the public hospitals, although the reality is there are very few not-for-profit clinics in the province. You might say most people were thinking of the not-for-profit edict with a wink.

Hospitals complained that it made it difficult for them to plan when their services would be left up to the caprice of the market.

Continue reading

Toilets without seats — warnings from England

Too big to fail.

For most that expression applies to big banks, but what about our health care?

As Ontario prepares the way for further transfer (read: privatization) of hospital services to mostly for-profit independent health facilities, it’s a good question to ask.

When the government recently decided earlier this year to end its relationship with 90 private OHIP designated physiotherapy clinics , it was revealed that these clinics were almost all owned by just four companies.

The same narrowing of interests also occurred in Ontario’s home care, where the former competitive bidding system ushered out many of the smaller players.

That’s far from healthy.

We’ve previously said that if you want to see the future of Ontario’s health care system, look to England.

Continue reading

Poking the beast – “P” word missing from reform talk

The problem with discussing health care sustainability is there is no definition of what that means. Data would suggest that our health care spending is not out of control – the so-called cost curve has already been bent. Past increases appear to have occurred in sync with economic growth, the exception being the economic crash of 2008. Clearly those who are worried about sustainability are not equating it with affordability.

Across Canada the average increase in provincial health care spending this year is 2 per cent – hardly a matter of excess especially when one considers aging and population growth.

While Canada has done better than just about every other country in the OECD in controlling health costs, it has often come at a difference kind of price given quality issues that persist.

This week the Conference Board of Canada is hosting a two-day conference in Toronto on health care sustainability. Next week the discussions will be sure to spill over into the Ontario Hospital Association’s annual get-together at HealthAchieve. We’ll be at both.

Earlier this year health policy analyst Steven Lewis and former Cancer Care Ontario CEO Dr. Terrence Sullivan issued a paper on how to keep the cost curve bent.

Continue reading

Privatization: The “big bad mistake” Ontario is intent on repeating

“The stealth privatization of Ontario’s gas plants over the past decade set the stage for the inevitable payouts that we now face for decades to come.” – Martin Regg Cohn, Toronto Star columnist, October 9, 2013

Has Kathleen Wynne really learned her lesson? With last week’s report raising the cost of the cancelled gas plants to $1.1 billion, you’d think it would give the government pause over similar privatization deals. That, after all, is the essence of why the cancelled gas plants cost so much. Ground had not even been broken on the Oakville site, the contracted company unable to secure construction permits from the municipality.

Ontario’s Premier called the cancellation a “big, bad mistake,” but much of the cost of these cancelled deals lies in the privatized structure the government chose to develop public infrastructure.

Only a week earlier the same government, supposedly humbled by this deal, announced that a different private consortium had been chosen the winner to build a new 30-year public-private partnership hospital in Kingston.

Continue reading

Chemo drug scandal: Why would Peterborough contract out in the first place?

Craig Woudsma is the reluctant hero of the so-called “chemo drug scandal.” He is the OPSEU pharmacy assistant at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre who stopped to question the differences between oncology medication prepared by the hospital’s old contract supplier and the new – Marchese Hospital Solutions.

He was the first to do so. 1200 cancer patients received less than their prescribed dose due to an error that has four Ontario hospitals, their purchasing agent, and Marchese all pointing fingers at each other.

Yesterday Woudsma may have not felt the hero, appearing before the Ontario’s legislature’s social policy committee heavily coached by senior hospital officials and their contract lawyer, who sat directly behind him and his senior colleague Judy Turner.

As it turns out, maybe it was the hospital officials themselves who should have been back on the hot seat.

Why would Peterborough Regional Health Centre want to contract out the preparation of oncology drugs 200 kilometers away in Hamilton when it had the resources to do so on site?

Continue reading

Who should you trust? Former PC advisor shills in the Star for private health care

Francesca Grosso says she is an established expert in health care policy. A former PC health care policy director, her day job these days is a principal at Grosso McCarthy, a public affairs company for hire.

So when she writes in the opinion pages of the Toronto Star, as she did on Sunday (What’s Behind The Attack On Clinics?), who is she really shilling for? Who paid for this?

The piece itself is full of misinformation about private delivery of health care, a situation that might be embarrassing to her professionally given her claims to expertise.

She argues that private clinics are getting a bad rap as a result of a Toronto Star series that reveals nine private clinics failed a quality inspection by the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Continue reading

Will the new health accord include a privatization clause?

Will the federal government insist the provinces “experiment” with for-profit delivery of health care as part of the next Canada Health Accord?

Colleen Flood says there is “some talk” that this may be a new condition. Flood, Canada Research Chair in Health and Law Policy at the University of Toronto, told Canadian Business magazine that it “may be a condition that the feds actually put on the transfer, the condition of experimenting with private for-profit delivery within the context of a public system.”

The idea wouldn’t be entirely new – the Harper government set a similar proviso to new infrastructure projects requiring federal funding. The Conservatives set a condition requiring the provinces to examine the “viability” of public-private partnerships on any infrastructure projects seeking at least $50 million in federal funding.

The idea of embedding the new health accord with a privatization clause may be disturbing to Canadians. Canadian values have long rejected the idea that health care is a business venture rather than a “moral enterprise.” Will that belief apply to private for-profit delivery of publicly funded health services?

The problem is the feds appear ready to dash into this without any evidence to support it.

The Romanow Commission found no advantage to the delivery of public health care services by private for-profit entities. In the US, an influential 2002 meta-analysis by P.J. Devereaux concluded that for-profit ownership of hospitals and kidney dialysis clinics led to poorer outcomes and higher mortality rates. A BC study of for-profit versus not-for-profit long term care homes came to similar conclusions.

At a recent conference held by Students for Medicare, Dr. Michael Rachlis said Canada’s health care costs rose faster in the private sector. Governments were far more successful in restraining rising health costs in the public sector. Hospital and physician costs have been amongst the slowest to rise.

Once that pandora’s box is opened, can it be closed again?

Critics suggest that private delivery is not the edge of the wedge towards full privatization. They suggest that Canadians would never accept an Americanized system. However, we have already seen delisting of services, something anticipated to increase. Delisting is the ultimate privatization. When the McGuinty government first came to power in 2004, physiotherapy and eye examinations were among health services to be delisted.

Following public uproar a compromise was reached where hospitals were left performing publicly-funded outpatient physio. That didn’t last long — over the last eight years these services have slowly dried up as individual hospitals have stopped offering outpatient rehab services.

Now we are seeing less subtle forms of privatization, such as the recent news that the Scarborough Centenary Hospital – part of Rouge Valley Health System – is charging “alumni” in its cardiac rehab program $500 a year to continue on with the program.

The attack on our public Medicare system will likely not be a full frontal approach. That would be too toxic for any politician. It is more likely we will see the system eroded by increments, making way for greater opportunities by the private sector.

How the federal government proceeds will be watched closely by all who value our Medicare system.