Media Release – SHC raises concerns about private for-profit surgery clinic

SASKATCHEWAN HEALTH COALITION RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT PRIVATE FOR-PROFIT
SURGERY CLINIC

Regina – Sept 12, 2010 – The Saskatchewan Health Coalition raises concerns that private-for-profit surgery clinics will drain resources (staff, nurses, doctors and valuable dollars) from the public system.  We say this in response to a recent announcement by the Saskatchewan Party Government that some arthroscopic knee surgeries and dental surgeries will be contracted out to a private-for-profit clinic in the Regina Health Region.

The first concern that comes to mind when private-for-profit delivery of health care is considered is the cost associated with private for-profit, because it is more expensive; a profit has to be made.  The announcement indicated that the private for-profit delivery would be cheaper by a few dollars per surgical case.  We question that analysis and note that the private clinics do not provide a 24/7 service, intensive care, emergency, laboratory, x-ray and other services contained in the costs for the public system. Should unforeseen circumstances prevail, patients requiring those expensive more extensive services will have to be whisked to the public hospitals.  Of course healthier patients will likely be selected to have their surgery in the private clinic to avoid such incidents, and therefore patients with any health problems posing risks will still have their surgery booked in the public system. This “cherry picking” of patients ensures that there is a quick turnover in numbers and of course, correspondingly, a fast profit to be made in the private-for-profit surgical clinic. The fast profits will soon drain precious funding from the public health care system and further cripple it.

Instead of diverting dollars from public health care funding, to profits in private for-profit health care delivery, these dollars should be used to build capacity in our public Medicare system to meet the health care needs of all the citizens in the province for the present and into the future.

The Health Minister says the use of this private facility is required to address the wait lists in order that the government can meet its targets promised by 2014.  Why this urgent need for private for-profit surgery clinics when only three months prior to this announcement, on May 17, 2010, the government announced the positive progress being made on decreases in wait times. They announced that wait times have been “significantly reduced in the past two years”.  The announcement said that “Wait times have declined most significantly in orthopaedics”, adding that “the number of patients waiting more than six months for a hip or knee replacement dropped 38 percent” and “the number waiting longer than a year dropped 62 percent”. In 2009-2010, there was an increase of 1,800 surgeries preformed over the previous year.

What kind of health care do we want?  Does not longer than a 3 month wait for any surgery apply in all cases or should there be varying waits depending on acceptable guidelines for each type of surgery.  Pan Canadian benchmarks for some surgeries were established in December 2005 by Canada’s provincial, territorial, and federal governments. If we look at the benchmarks for Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) Surgery, Saskatchewan has achieved 100% of the benchmarks set for Level II (6 weeks) and Level III (26 weeks) and 80% of the target of 2 weeks for Level I.

Why hasn’t concern about health care delivery to Saskatchewan patients been more focused on such needs as gynecologic oncology.  We have noted that Darlene Gray, a spokesperson for Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Treatments in Saskatchewan, had identified to the government over the last two years that a crisis is looming. She identified that there was an urgent need to address issues to retain specialists and nothing was done.  Now there is a real crisis since the only gynecologic oncologist in southern Saskatchewan has left on an emergency sick leave. And further it was only recently that the government announced some portions of the Kidney Transplant program will resume in Saskatchewan after being suspended for over a year.

The Saskatchewan Health Coalition believes that we were on the right track with wait lists in the public health care system in Saskatchewan and should continue.  The government should focus on addressing urgent health care issues and building capacity in the public system to meet the needs of all Saskatchewan citizens for now and into the future, instead of diverting valuable dollars and professional human resources to health care delivery in private for-profit surgery clinics.

Marlene Brown, President
Saskatchewan Health Care Coalition
Phone: 306-545-3372  Cell: 306-550-5207