For-profit corporations are about to get a major shot in the arm, administered by the Ontario governments plans to build two privately financed, owned and maintained hospitals.
Late in 2001, the government announced a new Brampton campus of the William Osler Health Centre and a new Royal Ottawa Hospital, both to be built as public private partnerships. The government has made it clear it plans more P3 hospitals, and hospital administrators are buying into P3s as a ploy to hide debt from their books. However evidence from Britain, where similar schemes have been up and running for nearly a decade, show the public pays a high price when it comes to patient care, efficient use of taxpayer money and public accountability.
Closer to home, evidence of private sector problems is staring the Tories in the face. The provincial auditor has released a damning report on the privatization of cancer care. The special audit scrutinized Cancer Care Ontarios decision to privatize after-hours cancer treatment to a corporation headed by a former Cancer Care Ontario executive. The for-profit clinic benefits from public infrastructure at Torontos Sunnybrook Hospital.
While the Tories hid behind stories about long waiting lists and patients going to the United States for cancer treatment, the Ontario Health Coalition connected the dots of a manufactured crisis. The Conservative government delayed building new treatment centres and expanding existing ones, froze cancer care funds and cut the radiation therapist training program all when the need for care was projected to increase by 40 per cent.
Far from saving money, the privatized cancer clinic cost the public more $500 more per treatment. In addition, the province handed the clinic $4 million in start-up funding, further subsidizing private profits. Provincial auditor Erik Peters also found that under the privatized scheme, waiting lists for cancer treatment did not change, leaving 70 per cent of Ontario patients without treatment in the recommended four-week time period.
Peters found no evidence Cancer Care Ontario had considered public, not-for-profit solutions or compared public and private costs.
CUPE has lodged a complaint with the federal government under the Canada Health Act, arguing that contracting out cancer treatment threatens the universality and not-for-profit provisions of the Act, leaving public Medicare open to privatization under free trade rules. CUPE has also pointed to public solutions to cancer care backlogs, including extended public treatment hours as well as a recruiting and training new radiation therapists and technicians.