Media Release – The SK Govt’s Millions of Dollars More for Privatization of Healthcare is Flawed Policy

February 17, 2011Saskatchewan Health Coalition News Release

The SK Govt.’s Millions of Dollars More for Privatization of Healthcare is Flawed Policy.

Regina – The SK. Health Coalition is concerned that the government’s February 14th announcement of additional surgical funding is for private-for-profit healthcare delivery driven by the Saskatchewan Party’s privatization ideology.  The government’s policy is not evidence-based, transparent or driven by critical healthcare needs. The citizens of Saskatchewan will not support the privatization of hospital surgery just as they will not support privatization of their schools. We are being lulled into a transition to a private-for-profit health care system under the guise of addressing surgical wait lists.

The government is touting the concept of contracting quick, minor, non-emergent surgeries to private-for-profit clinics in the two largest health regions.  The government is saying that the trickle down effect will relieve the surgical wait lists for major surgical procedures without presenting any evidence.  We do know that the privatization policy will increase the competition for skilled health care providers between the private and public systems, limiting the public system’s operational ability.  Wait lists for more complex and higher risk surgeries will continue, while valuable health care providers and dollars will be siphoned off into profits for private clinics.

The Minister of Health, Don McMorris has presented no evidence that privatized surgery will be cheaper. Arbitrator Dan Ish Q.C. stated last fall in his decision between Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and CUPE: “I find that the Employer has not demonstrated that the third party contracts are less costly than doing the work in-house.”   Alberta’s cost for privatized orthopedic surgery procedures have been three times more costly than doing more procedures in public hospitals.

There is a crisis in primary healthcare providers (family physicians), especially in the rural areas and in our inner cities.  Municipalities have appealed for increased funding for long-term care and hospitals.  The government’s priority is privatization of surgery.

The Health Minister is not being transparent when he says that private clinics will provide a temporary solution for one to two years. Requests For Proposals for private-for-profit clinic surgeries have been issued for contracts up to 5 years.  Private-for-profit surgery clinics have been tried by other provinces and the evidence is that the clinics are plagued by conflict of interest and violations of the Canada Health Act.   The private-for–profit Cambie Clinic and Dr. Brian Day in British Columbia are embroiled in the courts over extra-billing patients.  How does Minister McMorris propose to prevent such practices here as he invites them into Saskatchewan when Prime Minister Harper has refused to uphold the law and enforce the Canada Health Act which prohibits these abuses of Medicare?

The Saskatchewan Health Coalition is concerned about this increase in private-for-profit health care delivery and believes that as our province is growing, health care dollars would be better spent expanding the public system to meet the needs of Saskatchewan residents for now and into the future.

Marlene Brown. President, SK. Health Coalition – ph. 306-545-3372