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The Worcestershire fiasco in Britain once again demonstrates that public private partnerships are good for privateers but bad for patients.

A P3 hospital, already facing a deficit, has been forced to pay hundreds of thousands of public dollars to corporations as punishment for taking too many patients.

Worcestershire Royal Hospital was fined when its occupancy rate rose to 98 per cent. The corporation that owns and operates the hospital has an until-now secret clause in its contract that caps occupancy at 90 per cent. But because of a record high number of emergency cases and because another nearby hospital had to close its operating rooms in order to divert funding to the over-budget P3 project more patients were admitted. This has meant the hospital must pay the corporation an extra fee, diverting scarce funds from patient care at the same time the hospital is dealing with a 15 million deficit.

The hospital trust has tried to explain away the extra payments saying they cover the increased costs of maintenance that arise when occupancy is high. But the fact remains these fees are intended to protect the handsome profit margins of the hospital owners and they wouldnt arise if the hospital were publicly owned and operated.

Worse still, the British ministry of health admits that secret clauses guaranteeing extra payments to P3 contractors when beds are full are in all PFI contracts.

Other clauses such as limits on the number of patients treated and the number of meals eaten are also hidden in some contracts. P3 hospitals have to pay more when numbers exceed the limit.

The British experience has shown all along that P3 hospitals are bad deals. Ontario residents have reason to be particularly concerned as they have been denied access to full information on the P3 hospitals planned for Ottawa, Brampton and other communities. Similarly access to information on the Abbotsford hospital and other P3 hospitals has been sketchy at best.

Given that P3 hospitals are modeled after the British experience and that many of the same multinationals that own and operate the UK hospitals are now setting up shop in Canada, theres a real risk that similar clauses may appear in Canadian P3 hospital contracts, putting corporate profits ahead of patients interests.

To learn more, read these articles from the Observer: