Public Values

SK contracts-out surgeries and tests

Plan will harm the public health system because there are not enough resources to staff two parallel systems.

This proposal will deliver less for the same money or the same for more money - Mike Saskatchewan Health Coalition - May/ June 2010

The public health care system has made tremendous gains in reducing surgical wait times, but the Wall government's decision to contract out surgeries and diagnostic testing could jeopardize them, critics warn. Wait times here and across the country have been dropping in recent years due to a well-coordinated plan by the federal and provincial governments.

The most recent information from the Saskatchewan Surgical Care Network shows the majority of scheduled surgeries are being done within three months. In March, Health Minister Don McMorris announced the government's new $10.5 million surgical plan.

Instead of building a new public surgical care centre in Regina, McMorris said the government had decided to contract-out out surgeries and diagnostic tests such as MRIs and CT scans. McMorris said the government was negotiating contracts with two for-profit clinics: Omni Surgery Centre in Regina and Surgicentre in Saskatoon. Both clinics currently offer a range of elective surgeries, including "tummy tucks" and breast augmentation.

Initially, the government claimed the for-profit clinics were necessary to deal with the back-log for hip and knee surgeries. Although McMorris recently admitted the province is "now keeping pace with the demand for surgeries," he says the government wants to "transform" health care delivery. That has many supporters of public health care worried. Mike McBane of the Canadian Health Coalition warns the government's plan will harm the public health system because there are not enough resources to staff two parallel systems.

"All the evidence shows that private, for- profit clinics poach scarce health professionals, make wait times longer in the public system, and increase the costs," says McBane, the coalition's coordinator. The SaskParty government claims the private for-profit centres will receive the same payment as public facilities. McBane finds that hard to believe. "I'm not aware of any place in North America where for-profit health services are less expensive. This proposal will deliver less for the same money or the same for more money."

Posted: May 31, 2010

  Health care
  Public services

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