October 14, 2004
Rather than seeking long-term solutions to the Interior's health-care needs, the Interior Health Authority has opted for an expensive short-term fix by contracting out day surgeries to a private surgical centre for six months.
The IHA should announce now that it will not continue on the path of privatization, but if statements attributed to IHA administrator Chris Mazurkewich in the Oct. 5 Daily Courier are accurate, this measure may be only the start of long-term privatization plans. The story reported that the IHA is looking to lease private operating rooms for five years.
This certainly sounds like a long-term privatization scheme. The North Okanagan Labour Council believes the health authority should be working to improve capacity in the public system, rather than encouraging construction of more private facilities.
We understand that the IHA is trying to resolve an immediate problem, but the authority, taxpayers and patients will be better served if the authority works toward a long-term solution that does not include privatization.
Perhaps, IHA administrators have been listening to Ralph Klein's misguided musings on health care too long. Evidence has shown over and over again that quick fixes like this cost the health-care system more in the long run. When Ontario outsourced diagnostic testing to private companies, for example, trained technologists were poached out of the public system, exacerbating a shortage of trained professionals in the public system. The new Ontario government is now buying back private clinics to fix the problem.
In the Courier story, Mazurkewich is reported to have said that other private groups may build surgical facilities if they have a five-year commitment from IH to rent them out. Like Ontario, the IHA would be encouraging health professionals to charge much more in a private setting to be paid for with public dollars.
The story also reported that expansion of Kelowna General Hospital is under consideration. If that's the case, why doesn't the IHA get on with it and fast-track it? That makes more sense than encouraging the construction of more private surgical facilities.
The recent health-care deal reached by the prime minister and premiers was intended to strengthen our public health-care system, not increase opportunities to privatize it. Our 10,000 members, and thousands more in this area, want the IHA to abandon its privatization schemes and instead work toward making our public health-care system better.
North Okanagan Labour Council