Ontario hospitals condemn privatization of outpatient services
Public labs cost only two-thirds that of private clinics.
by Jon Thompson, Kenora Daily Miner and News
October 28, 2008 — A report on the public private partnership pilot project in the province's rural laboratories recommending ending hospital outpatient testing has met unanimous opposition from participating hospitals.
Despite spending on public labs amounting to two-thirds the cost of their private counterparts, the report recommended discontinuing the 11-year project in favour of private delivery (known as the "provincial model") saying: "On balance, it appears that moving to the provincial model for community lab services is the most attractive option."
Under the appendix marked "provider's comments," hospitals universally condemned the report's findings where the three private providers were united in their support for its recommendations. Lake of the Woods District Hospital president Mark Balcaen and chief of staff James Kerry MacDonald's response was among them, foreseeing the pilot project's cancellation having devastating effects on Kenora's physician recruitment capacity and lab service availability. With limited resources in Thunder Bay and limited efficiency and hours in the private lab, they expressed "grave concerns" at the notion of privatization.
Balcaen was unavailable for supplementary comment and MacDonald would only say he hadn't changed his position.
Executive director of the Sunset Country Family Health Team, Randy Belair, said doctors felt it was time for the pilot project to be reviewed but withheld judgment on the report's conclusions, saying only: "If there's an intent to move forward with the recommendations and the preferred recommendation really is to discontinue pilot sites . . .physicians have to be assured of a continuation of comprehensive menu of tests, easy access to test results and whatever system there is delivers accurate and timely results."
Kenora MPP Howard Hampton condemned the findings last week, accusing Premier Dalton McGuinty's government of health care "privatization by stealth." NDP health critic France Gelinas continues to hurl condemnation at the parameters that she said has allowed private delivery services to profit while its public counterparts have had their funding frozen.
While hospitals have had to account for spending under their global budgets, she explained, private firms have had direct access to the ministry pocketbook, sidestepping the accountability mechanisms in the Local Health Integration Networks. . .
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Pilot labs should end in privatization: report, by Jon Thompson, Kenora Daily Miner and News, October 28, 2008
Posted: October 29, 2008
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