The spectacular demise of the private Kings Health Centre provides a glimpse into the problem-riddled world of privatized care.
What was hyped as the Mayo Clinic of the North went south in a hurry late last year, when majority owners Ron and Loren Koval fled the country accused of a $100 million fraud, including millions in public OHIP money.
Kings offered a range of health services in luxurious marble-floored, wood-paneled surroundings. Some services were covered by OHIP while others, such as the Kings Health Centre Executive Golf Academy, presumably werent. Other services on the menu included prostate therapy, counseling, diagnostic testing such as magnetic resonance imaging, referrals to the United States for private surgery, weight loss and nutrition programs, executive health checkups, sleep disorders, rehabilitation and injury management.
Adding to the intrigue, allegations have emerged that Kings was operating as a private hospital without official approval. Reports have surfaced that Saudi Arabian royalty used Kings as a private hospital, and that wealthy Canadians may have done the same.
Politicians pushing private hospitals in Alberta referred to Kings as the blueprint for privatized facilities such as the Health Resources Groups Calgary private hospital. The Kings collapse scraps it as a model and provides a serious warning against further private clinics or hospitals.
From its inception, Kings was designed to capitalize on the de-listing of health services. The determination of the Ontario Conservative government to privatize health care sweetened the investment opportunity. Revenue came from OHIP billings, third-party payers such as insurance companies and private fees charged to clients a possible violation the Canada Health Acts ban on user fees and facility fees for publicly insured services.
The enormous amount of money changing hands combined with lax oversight and regulation provided the perfect incubator for fraud. Private delivery of health care always has greater expenditures than public care including inflated administrative costs. In this case, the administrative costs included fraud. As the Kings house of cards collapses under the weight of its own flaws, calls continue for the federal government to enforce the Canada Health Act and outlaw private hospitals.