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TORONTO, Ont. – By forging ahead with cutting surgeries out of public hospitals and outsourcing them to private clinics, Ontario’s provincial government is “ignoring” mounting evidence that private surgery and procedures are posing safety risks and harming patients in Britain, says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

According to the Guardian newspaper this week, surgeries have been suspended at a private clinic in Devon while an investigation is underway involving 19 patients, several of whom suffered complications. This follows reports just weeks ago that dozens of patients at another private clinic were left damaged with impaired vision, pain and discomfort and one 84-year old man claiming he has lost his sight completely. The contract with that provider was terminated four days after 60 patients reported complications following surgery.

For the last decade Britain has experimented with increasing use of private (often for-profit) companies to perform surgeries such as cataract and hips and knees and endoscopy procedures, once done at public hospitals. 

Prior to this June’s election Ontario’s Liberal health minister (who has since been moved to another ministry) indicated her government would be moving forward to cut surgeries and procedures from hospitals here, in order to implement a similar outsourcing as in Britain.

“The patient outcome horror stories coming out of these private procedures clinics are chronicled weekly by British media,” says Hurley. “What’s clear is that risks to patients have increased and there are significant patient injury and other post-surgery complications. More British patients being harmed at private surgery clinics should be a wake-up call for Ontario’s health minister to not inflict this model on unsuspecting Ontarians.”

British doctors have routinely warned against outsourcing even “routine” surgeries, citing both increased risks to patients and higher costs for the public health system.

Hurley is calling on Ontario’s new health minister Eric Hoskins to closely review the evidence coming out of Britain against outsourcing surgeries to private clinics and not emulate a failing experiment here.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley
President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)

Stella Yeadon
Communications Canadian Union of Public Employees