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The Saskatchewan government’s proposal to contract-out surgeries and diagnostic testing, such as MRI and CT scans, will create a two-tiered health system, one that puts profits first, not patients, warns CUPE.

Saskatchewan health minister Don McMorris said yesterday the government has ear-marked $5.5 million to pay private, for-profit clinics in Saskatoon and Regina to conduct surgeries and diagnostic tests.

Gordon Campbell, President of the CUPE Health Care Council, denounced the government’s plan as “reckless and irresponsible.”

It is reckless because it is based on blind ideology and it is irresponsible because it threatens to jeopardize the tremendous gains the public system already achieved in reducing wait times,” says Campbell.

The most recent information from the Saskatchewan Surgical Care Network shows the majority of scheduled surgeries are being done within three months. The Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, for example, completed 83% of surgeries in three months.

Campbell also criticized the government for postponing capital funding for the new public, outpatient surgical care centre in Regina, stating it would increase the capacity of the public health system to provide more surgical procedures.

You have to wonder why the government could not find $ 3 million for a public surgical centre, but could find $5.5 million for private-for-profit clinics. It’s perverse.”

Although the government acknowledged for the first time yesterday that “Saskatchewan is now keeping pace with the demand for surgeries,” the Health Minister said the government wants to “transform” health care delivery.

Michael McBane of the Canadian Health Coalition said the government’s plan to privatize surgeries and diagnostic testing will harm the public health system because there are not enough resources to staff two parallel systems.

All the evidence shows that private-for-profit clinics poach scarce health professionals, make wait times longer in the public system, and increase the costs,” says McBane, the national coalition’s co-ordinator.

He predicts the use of private-for-profit clinics will drastically increase the cost of health services in Saskatchewan. “I’m not aware of any place in North America where for-profit health services are less expensive. This proposal will deliver less for the same money or the same for more money,” he says.

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Contact: Gordon Campbell at 539-0661 or Michael McBane in Ottawa at 613-277-6295