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June 2003

    Critics call on Liberals to Shelve Surgery Privatization Plans

    Response by public interest organizations has been swift to the Liberal regime's plans to contract out thousands of surgical procedures, and they are calling on Victoria to shelve the unprecedented scheme.

    Patient and consumer advocates, health care unions and many doctors are again charging the Liberals with yet another fraudulent electoral promise that they would protect universal public health care from privatization. They are urging the government to reconsider what they say will likely lead to serious risks to both the quality and accessibility of health care services in the province.

    Researcher Dr. P.J. Devereaux, a leading cardiologist at McMaster University, says conclusive medical evidence shows that patients are at greater risk in for-profit health care settings than in not-for-profit hospitals. "The evidence is consistent, profound and large that there are increased death rates,” he said.

    The reason, says Devereaux, is that because of the profit motive, private operators "cut corners on the quality of care and that results in deaths."

    Reportedly, Premier Campbell first pressed for the privatization of day surgeries at a meeting with B.C.'s top health authority bosses six months ago, despite pre-election promises that his government would improve the public health care system to the point where “private clinics would be redundant.”

    In an apparent reversal of this commitment, Health Minister Colin Hansen said, “
    We want to make sure we are getting the best value and we want to make sure we give patients in B.C. improved access to the care they need," he said.

    But critics charge this is another Liberal government effort to put more public money into the pockets of select business interests and private firms. Others says it is a desperate move to offset the huge 20 per cent increase in surgical wait lists due to Liberal cuts to the public system.

    It demonstrates that the government's appetite for privatization is insatiable and is an outrageous betrayal of the public trust by a government that promised to make private clinics redundant,” said Chris Allnut, of the Hospital Employees Union, many of whose members have been fired or blacklisted by the Liberal regime’s Health care privatization efforts. “I think they mean to dismantle every aspect of health care. I think people will be quite appalled. This shows that no health care worker is safe from privatization."


    Interim NDP leader Joy MacPhail says this move comes as a surprise, since the minister had said there were no plans to privatize surgical operations.


    "When I pushed them and pushed them to admit that this was what Bill 29 would permit -- the privatization of clinical services -- they said 'oh no, absolutely not,'" she said.

    But Hansen is hinting the privatization move may be more of a stopgap measure than a permanent policy. "There may be some niche opportunities that make sense, but until they do their cost-benefit analysis and have a discussion with some of those providers, we are not going to know."

    Meanwhile, the government’s latest move is attracting national attention. Judy Darcy, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, called the privatization move "an outrage that puts Canada's entire health care system in jeopardy," and has send a letter to federal Health Minister Anne McLellan, calling for an immediate moratorium on health care privatization.

    The BC Health Coalition, and ad hoc group of citizens and health organizations, is also opposed to the move, and is asking people to contact the federal government to support a moratorium.

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