EDMONTON, AB – Canadian doctors debating privatization at the Canadian Medical Association conference today will do so with a healthy dose of reality from British doctors who’ve experienced for-profit care.
The British doctors, representing the National Health Service Consultants’ Association (NHSCA), have sent an open letter to incoming CMA president Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai, urging Canadian doctors to “learn from our country’s mistakes and reject private care and other market-style policies.”
The letter, written by two specialists working in Britain’s public health care system, warns that instead of ‘saving’ public health care, privatization has undermined the NHS. Costs have risen dramatically, quality is in question and young surgeons are losing training opportunities as a growing number of surgeries are contracted to ‘independent sector treatment centres’ – the British equivalent of private clinics.
Doctors Peter Fisher and Jacky Davis also warn Canadian doctors not to embrace public private partnerships for hospital infrastructure, known in Britain as private finance initiative (PFI)
“Inevitably, PFI hospitals are more expensive, as borrowing is at a higher rate and there has to be profit for the shareholders,” writes Fisher, the NHSCA president and a gastroenterologist, and Davis, an NHSCA executive committee member and a radiologist.
Market forces and competition have also had a corrosive effect on public health care in Britain, wasting precious financial resources and staff time. “These reforms are driven by ideology, and there is as yet no evidence that a competitive market improves outcomes in health care,” they write. While the NHS has had recent infusions of cash, “vastly increased expenditure has produced only modest results precisely because of privatization and commercialisation’s negative effects.”
Canada’s largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, solicited the doctors’ letter, to help counter the myth that private health care will shorten wait lists or otherwise improve medicare in Canada.
“It’s important that Canadian doctors hear the facts – not the rhetoric – about privatization. There’s no shortage of evidence that private health care creates problems, not solutions,” says CUPE national president Paul Moist. “I urge Dr. Collins-Nakai, and all Canadian doctors, to heed this important warning.”
The full letter can be downloaded at cupe.ca.
The National Health Service Consultants’ Association represents 650 British specialists in a broad range of practices. Visit http://www.nhsca.org.uk/main.html for more on the NHSCA. CUPE represents more than 150,000 front-line workers in the health care system across the country, including cleaning and nutrition staff, licensed practical nurses and technicians.
CUPE national president
CUPE national secretary-treasurer
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