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Private clinics blur lines of care versus profit: FoM

Posted: April 25, 2018

(April 25, 2018)

By: Gillian Slade, Medicine Hat News

In the past two decades there has been a proliferation of private medical clinics that are potentially a violation of the Canada Health Act, said Friends of Medicare at a local public event Tuesday night.

Private clinics typically provide medical care with “add-ons,” which blurs the lines. Some charge a membership fee of around $4,000, said Dr. Trevor Harrison, director of the Parkland Institute, which published a report called “Blurred Lines” and is available online. While they promise select care with personal treatment, “their true allegiance is to their shareholders,” he explained.

Harrison called for improved legislation to close the loopholes allowing private clinics to operate, and in some cases allowing doctors to have one foot in the private system with another in public system.

In some cases, private clinics are billing the public health-care system and then charging the patient a fee as well, said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. Patients are paying for a service they have already paid for through their taxes.

In a survey of people who had used private clinics, Mehra said, some felt scare tactics had been used with warnings of dire consequences if the test/surgery was delayed.

Private clinics are seeing success because of restrictions in the public system, said Harrison.

The waiting list for diagnostic imaging can hold the key to seeing a surgeon and getting surgery scheduled, and that is a motivation for some to pay privately, said FoM executive director Sandra Azocar, who is adamant health care should be based on need and not the ability to pay.

Control of the health care system has moved away from one with local oversight, explained Mehra.

“Our system is becoming corporatized,” said Mehra, who believes private clinics are also a threat to Medicare. They have become bolder in challenging the health act established in 1984.

Comparing Canada’s health care system to other countries to see if there is a model that could be adopted here, is difficult because European countries in particular are densely populated making the delivery of service easier. Some countries include additional services such as dental, eye care and pharmacare so a direct comparison is not possible.

Azocar said Canada has to create its own solution.