The Campbell Liberals are taking a big gamble with their plans for a private hospital in the Fraser Valley, and if the track records of the corporations bidding on the project are any indication, the odds are stacked against taxpayers and patients, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).
Profiles released today by the union of the four international consortia invited to bid on a public-private partnership hospital project in Abbotsford paint a disturbing picture of the potential risks of the provincial government’s privatization plans for health care.
On Monday, Partnerships B.C.- the government agency responsible for public-private partnerships - issued a request for proposals for the Abbotsford Hospital and Cancer Centre P3 to the short-listed consortia: the Vancouver Health Care Group; Access Health Abbotsford; the Fraser Valley Health Partnership; and the Healthcare Infrastructure Company of Canada.
Taxpayers will be on the hook with the successful bidder for a 33-year contract worth at least $1.2 billion. And it appears that Victoria is also prepared to make sweeping changes to labour laws to sweeten the deal.
Initial project costs have already increased by more than 40 per cent from $210 million to $300 million with no increase in bed capacity. Annual service payments to the winning consortium are estimated at $40 million - double the amount projected last year.
Those payments will come out of the operating budget of the Fraser Health Authority. The project was bumped from the government’s capital spending plans in the last budget.
“It’s a major long-term commitment of scarce health care dollars,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “But some of the revelations contained in the profiles we’re releasing today will have the public wondering if it’s money well-spent or an irresponsible gamble.”
Those revelations include:
- Carillion Plc, the parent company of Carillion Canada - a member of the Healthcare Infrastructure Company of Canada consortium - (go to http://www.heu.org/consortium-infrastructure.pdf to access pdf file) has been involved in several controversial privately-financed hospitals in the U.K. including the Great West Hospital in Swindon and Dartford Hospital where cost overruns and poor facility design are a concern.
- Amsterdam-based ABN Amro Bank N.V.- whose Canadian branch is a member of the Access Health Abbotsford consortium – (go to http://www.heu.org/consortium-accesshealth.pdf to access pdf file) is linked to the failed privatization of the Latrobe Regional Hospital in Australia where the bank and its partners racked up millions in losses and launched a lawsuit against the state government. When the partnership unwound, the hospital and its employees were taken back into public hands.
- Vancouver Health Care Group (go to http://www.heu.org/consortium-vancouverhealthcare.pdf to access pdf file) consortium member Aecon Group Inc.’s largest shareholder - Hochtief AG - faces criminal charges in Lesotho for its role in a consortium that’s alleged to have paid bribes to obtain World Bank projects for water infrastructure.
- Macquarie Canada - the Canadian arm of the Macquarie Bank of Australia - has a stake in Toronto’s Highway 407 toll road and is digging itself out of a public relations disaster in the U.K. over its ownership of a Birmingham toll road set to open next year. The British press reported that a senior Macquarie executive boasted that the company “can put up tolls by whatever we like” and “if (motorists) don’t complain about it being too high, then we haven’t done our job.” Macquarie is part of the Fraser Valley Health Partnership consortium. (go to http://www.heu.org/consortium-fraservalley.pdf to access pdf file)
- With the failure of the Coquihala P3, this government is desperate to sign on the dotted line with one of these consortia for the Abbotsford Hospital P3,” says Allnutt.
“Let’s hope common sense and fiscal responsibility win out over this misguided corporate sell off and that the residents of the Fraser Valley get the publicly built hospital that they deserve.”
Go to http://www.heu.org/backgrounder-consortia.pdf to access pdf file) for a chronological timeline in pdf format.
All pdf files require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 which may be downloaded for free from Adobe.com