Public Values

Privatizing surgery is a dangerous mistake, says NSGEU

by from the National Union of Public and General Employees

Spending precious health care dollars to benefit private companies. — Joan Jessome

Halifax (14 March 2008) — The Nova Scotia government's ill-advised decision to allow private surgery is an indictment of its ability to manage recruitment, retention and wait-time problems, says Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE).

"We have a shortage of health care workers and growing wait lists in Nova Scotia and the MacDonald government has just said that its only answer will be to privatize surgeries," Jessome says.

"Instead of focusing resources on recruiting and retaining nurses and health care workers to deal with wait times, they are spending precious health care dollars to benefit private companies."

Health Minister Chris d'Entremont announced Wednesday that the province has signed a one-year, $1-million contract allowing surgeons with the Capital District Health Authority to use private operating-room facilities owned by Scotia Surgery Inc in Dartmouth.

The private facilities are expected to handle 500 publicly-funded, for-profit orthopedic surgical procedures.

Misleading argument

The theory is that this will remove some pressure from public facilities. But Jessome argues that plan will have a direct negative impact on the number of nurses and health care workers available in the Nova Scotia.

"This government is misleading Nova Scotians. This clinic has already taken senior skilled operating room nurses out of the public system," she argues. "If the private clinic increases capacity, it will take more services from the public system. Instead of dealing with the health care shortage Rodney MacDonald is making it worse."

Jessome says the move represents a fundamental change in the way health care is delivered in Nova Scotia and that provincial residents will not support a government that attempts to cover up its inability to deal with health care shortages by privatizing and reducing services.

"The MacDonald government has already said it will reduce rural services. Now it's planning to privatize surgeries," Jessome adds. "Privatizing surgeries is a very dangerous step in the wrong direction. Nova Scotians want a strong, public system. They don't want private companies making money delivering these services."

Jessome also raised concerns about the safety of a private clinic and the quality of care it will provide.

"If anything goes wrong, and that is not uncommon, these patients will have to be transported to a real hospital. Cardiac and other essential medical services are not provided at this clinic."

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is a family of 11 component unions. Taken together they are one of the largest unions in Canada. Most of their 340,000 members work to deliver public services of every kind to the citizens of their home provinces. NUPGE also have a large and growing number of members who work for private businesses.

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Posted: March 25, 2008

  Health care

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