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But 81 per cent of public don’t think there’s been adequate consultation on project’s impact on Medicare – poll

The B.C. Liberal government is set to announce later today that it will embark on a global search for private investors to back a major hospital project in Abbotsford despite mounting evidence that it will be a costly mistake, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

The union has learned that Fraser Health Authority officials, local MLA’s and provincial cabinet ministers will gather in Abbotsford at 4 p.m. today to put out the welcome mat for investors to finance, build and operate a new Abbotsford hospital through a so-called public-private partnership arrangement. “This proposed private hospital will go down in history as Gordon Campbell’s fast ferry,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “But it will be B.C. taxpayers and Fraser Valley residents that will live with the consequences of this fiscal folly for decades to come.

“It’s a bitter irony that this government is apparently willing to abandon a P3 approach to building a trade and convention centre in downtown Vancouver to expedite the Olympic bid but continues to experiment on Fraser Valley residents who deserve a new publicly owned and operated hospital now.”

The project is proceeding despite a $250,000 government study released last year that indicated that a P3 model would produce marginal savings at best.

Forensic accountant Ron Parks, commissioned by HEU to review the study, raised concerns that even minor fluctuations in the financial modeling could lead to costly overruns and that the study may have been working towards “a preconceived conclusion rather than undertaking an unbiased evaluation.”

Research in the United Kingdom - where P3 hospitals have been built for the last ten years - show that profit taking by private investors from these arrangements has resulted in decreases in hospital beds and clinical staff budgets, service reductions and a loss of public accountability.

And results from a new HEU/McIntyre&Mustel poll released today show that public concerns over accountability loom large. Regardless of their views on a private hospital, eight of ten respondents -including 69 per cent of B.C. Liberal supporters – don’t believe there’s been adequate discussion about the impacts of a private hospital on public health care.

Seventy-one per cent of respondents don’t think the marginal savings projected in the government’s own P3 study justify proceeding with privatizing a major hospital.

The telephone survey of 403 British Columbian adults was carried out January 10 - 15 and is considered accurate to within five per cent, 19 times out of 20.

“Despite promises by area MLAs and the health services minister that local residents would have their say, no effort has been made to open up this very secretive planning process to the public,” says Allnutt. “Without a single public hearing on the matter, this government is prepared to ignore the evidence and fundamentally undermine the public health care system.” Here are the polling questions:

A consultant’s report commissioned by the provincial government says building a privately owned and operated hospital in Abbotsford would save less than one per cent over a publicly owned and operated hospital. In your view, would these savings justify privatizing a major new health care facility?

  • Yes: 68 (16.8%)
  • No: 285 (70.8%)
  • Don’t Know: 50 (12.4%)

Regardless of what you think about a private hospital, do you think that there has been adequate public discussion about what impacts a privately owned hospital would have on our public medicare system?

  • Yes: 38 (9.5%)
  • No: 327 (81.1%)
  • Don’t Know: 38 (9.5%)

Contact:Mike Old, communications officer
604-828-6771 (cell)
Margi Blamey, communications officer
604-456-7094 (direct)

Detailed polling results are available on request. Other links related to the Abbotsford P3 project can be found at the electronic version of this release at heu.org.