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Private health care giant MDS is a major financial backer of the controversial private hospital in Alberta that stands to benefit from Ralph Klein’s bid to contract out surgeries.

Armed with this news, the Hospital Employees Union, CUPE’s health services division in BC, has redoubled its efforts to scuttle an MDS bid to expand private lab services in Victoria.

In a report released December 15, HEU exposed the link between MDS and the Health Resources Group, the operators of a private hospital in Calgary that is poised to cash in on Klein’s surgical services privatization plan. Directly, and through venture capital funds it manages, MDS has invested $3 million in the start up costs of HRG’s hospital in Calgary. Three MDS representatives are on the HRG board of directors.

MDS’ rapid growth has been fuelled by public health care dollars it receives through its lab testing operations in Canada,” said National President Judy Darcy. “Now that company is using taxpayer dollars to engineer what amounts to a reverse takeover of our public medicare system in Alberta.”

HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt said the link between MDS and HRG underlines the need to bring all diagnostic testing into the public health system. “Bottom line, it certainly has increased our resolve to prevent private companies like MDS from making further incursions into the public system,” he said.

Since August, MDS and the Capital Health Region in Victoria have been involved in closed-door talks on the possible privatization of hospital-based diagnostic laboratory services. HEU has energetically opposed privatization of lab services and has launched a campaign to stop such a development.

HEU’s report also raised questions about whether MDS contracts to provide lab services with public health authorities in Alberta and Ontario had achieved projected cost savings. The investigation also found that these joint ventures operated behind a veil of secrecy that prevented public scrutiny and accountability.

The full report can be downloaded from www.heu.org