Botched operations at private surgery clinics in the United Kingdom (UK) are costing UK patients their eyesight and mobility and the public health care system a lot of money, recent reports show. So why would Ontario’s provincial government move forward with a scheme to divert surgeries and procedures from public hospital to private clinics here? Asks Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
Last year, with no real consultation with Ontarians, the provincial Liberal government changed regulations to allow for an expanded system of private surgery and procedures clinics.
Recent scathing reports of dozens of patients in the UK being left damaged with impaired vision, pain and discomfort and one 84-year old man claiming he has lost his sight completely, following “routine” eye surgeries at a private clinic, “should be a cautionary lesson for our new health minister. We encourage him to take a sober second look and not implement a policy to expand private surgery clinics in Ontario, because it is clearly a disaster for patients in England,” says Hurley.
For over a decade, it has been government policy in England to take money from the public, national health system (NHS) and give it to private (often for-profit) clinics to perform procedures and surgeries otherwise done at public hospitals. Doctors in England have routinely spoken out against the policy. They’ve warned about poorer quality care and safety risks for patients.
Patient safety is also a key concern here in Ontario. When complications arise, unlike public hospitals, private clinics are not set up to deal with medical emergencies. “This puts patients at risk,” says Hurley. “We are optimistic that Ontario’s new health minister, a medical doctor himself will put patient safety ahead of potential cost-cutting and re-think diverting surgeries and procedures out of hospitals to private clinics.”
Cost and risk implications for the public health system which has to provide intensive care for patients following complications from surgeries at private clinics are major concerns in the UK.
According to respected health policy researcher Dr. Allyson Pollock, “the private sector quite simply offloads the revisions, readmissions, emergency treatments and clinical follow-up and law suits to the NHS and the taxpayer…the NHS is footing the bill for dozens of people left damaged by eye operations provided by private healthcare operations. This comes as no surprise to those of us who have been following the disastrous implications of the privatisation of public health services.”