OTTAWA – Benchmarks for wait times in health care could become the teeth marks of private, for-profit care unless governments reduce wait times through public delivery, the head of Canada’s largest union said today.
“Without firm commitments to public delivery, benchmarks will really be about streaming people and taxpayer dollars to private clinics,” said Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “Canadians should not allow benchmarks for wait times to become the teeth marks of private clinics.”
Moist was reacting to the benchmarks list released today by federal, provincial and territorial health ministers. The benchmark list focused on five main areas: cardiac care, hip and knee replacements, eyesight restoration, radiation therapy for cancer and diagnostic services (mammography and cervical screening). The federal Liberals are relying on benchmarks to try to show they are actually doing something to strengthen health care.
Moist warned that if the Liberals don’t tackle the underlying issues – as Manitoba is doing by investing in more equipment, training more staff and introducing key management innovations – then private interests will continue to push for-profit clinics and private insurance as the solution to shorter wait times.
“You can already hear the private clinic owners clapping their hands in greedy glee,” said Moist. “The private clinic owners will be marketing themselves as the solution to wait times, but the only thing they’ll solve is how to get rich from public subsidy.”
Moist noted that the evidence shows that private, for-profit health care doesn’t reduce waiting times.
“England and New Zealand have parallel private hospital systems and have larger waiting lists and longer waiting times in the public system than countries with a single-payer system,” he said. “Waiting lists in Sweden grew after the government there allowed the growth of private hospitals – the list for cataract surgery almost doubled between 1992 and 2000.”
When public wait times dropped in Britain, it was because of increased public funding and numbers of front-line staff, Moist said.
For more on evidence that privatization doesn’t shorten wait lists:
Contact: David Robbins, CUPE Communications, cell (613) 878 1431