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TORONTO, ON – With the recent tragic death of comic Joan Rivers at a New York (NY) City private surgery clinic resulting in both the state health department and the city medical examiner investigating the cause of death, today the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) urged Ontario’s health minister to reconsider a policy that would expand the use here of similar private surgery and procedure clinics.

Last week the New York Times reported (September 9, 2014) Rivers’ treatment at the private surgery clinic “has drawn attention to a flourishing model of medical treatment, outpatient surgery centers, which have been licensed by the state to replace hospital operating rooms for minor procedures…..They are common in other states, but only now gaining traction in New York, where by law, the traditional hospital model is nonprofit.”

The Ontario Liberal government under then health minister Deb Matthews changed regulations to facilitate the expansion of private surgery clinics. There was little public consultation and the regulatory changes did not require approval from the Legislature. “This happened,” says Michael Hurley the president of OCHU, “despite the fact that cutting surgeries out of public hospitals and moving them to private clinics, is a radical health policy that most Ontarians are completely unaware of.”

While the circumstances of her death are still unclear, it seems Rivers had originally gone to the private clinic for a “routine endoscopy” procedure.

Rivers’ death follows a summer full of reports from the United Kingdom (UK) that patients there operated on at private surgery clinics have suffered complications from routine surgeries and in some cases even blindness.

Public hospitals, says Hurley come under greater scrutiny and regulation than private clinics, which are often referred to as “independent facilities” in Ontario.

“Private clinics are self-policing while hospitals fall under the Public Hospitals Act. There are ethical implications here. Providing the best possible quality and safest medical care should be the criteria for health policy, not how much it costs and how to do it on the cheap. There is abundant evidence that patients are at greater risks at private clinics. We are optimistic that the minister, himself a physician is closely scrutinizing the mounting evidence against private clinics,” says Hurley.

For more information please contact:
Stella Yeadon
Canadian Union of Public Employees Communications