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OTTAWA Today’s next step towards a privatized Royal Ottawa Hospital is a leap of faith into thin air, says Canada’s largest union.

The numbers don’t add up. Not for the beds or the dollars. Royal Ottawa administrators are hiding critical details from the public. The public has a right to see the hospital’s request for proposals, and to immediate disclosure of the documents they’re using to cut this deal, says Michael Hurley, President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The Royal Ottawa Hospital has released a request for proposals (RFP) to three consortia selected earlier this year to build a new privately owned and operated hospital. The few concrete details that emerge from the announcement reinforce CUPE’s warnings about P3 hospitals.

The financial details of the scheme are murky and incomplete. Administrators today said annual lease payments would be between $800,000 and $1 million a figure that doesn’t add up to the projected $100 million facility cost, even over the life of a 60-year lease. The new facility will have fewer beds than the existing hospital. The Ottawa facility will drop from 207 beds to 188. In addition, there is no apparent plan for the 200 beds that will be closed in Brockville.

Their lease payments won’t even cover the cost of the hospital let alone profits to the corporations involved. We can only conclude they plan to gouge the rest of the money out of the operating budget costs that are still being kept under wraps. As with British P3 hospitals, the new ROH will come at the expense of 219 beds and much-needed staff, says Hurley.

Compounding concerns about the incomplete financial picture is the comparison being prepared between public and private costs of a new facility. The New Brunswick auditor general recently found the provincial government overstated the public costs of a new school to make the P3 seem more attractive.

There needs to be independent scrutiny of the full financial picture before this deal is finalized. The Minister of Health must hand over this controversial scheme to the provincial auditor. This deal needs to be examined not only for serious cost concerns, but also important questions of accountability, says Hurley.

Today’s announcement attempted to respond to the growing body of evidence that public private partnership hospitals cost more and threaten quality of care, compared to publicly financed, owned and operated facilities. CUPE recently released an independent report detailing the financial, service and accountability concerns of P3 hospitals in Ontario.

Moving ahead with the P3 facility also ignores the recent conclusions of the Romanow commission when it comes to P3 hospitals. Based on extensive evidence, Romanow concluded P3 hospitals are not a panacea and questioned whether they are cost effective and provide better service. He did not endorse them as a solution for new hospitals.

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For more information: Michael Hurley, 416-884-0770

CUPE is Canada’s largest union, representing a half-million women and men providing public services, including 180,000 working in health care. To download the report, visit cupe.ca/downloads/p3_auerbach_eng.pdf