Ontario to invest in private healthcare in an attempt to reduce surgery wait times

Photo by: Martha Dominguez on Unsplash

Doug Ford’s government is attempting to eliminate surgery wait times by raising the number of surgeries done in privately-run clinics. The decision has since received mixed reviews, with concern of publicly-funded hospitals being drained of their resources.

Ontario’s three-step plan, which was released last Monday, primarily invests in community surgical and diagnostic centres, with the stated goal being for additional surgeries and procedures to be completed outside of publicly funded hospitals.

Community surgical and diagnostic centres is a broad term describing all for-profit and not-for-profit clinics outside of physical hospitals. Surgeries in these centres are said to be prioritized due to the roughly 206,000 backlog of people waiting for surgical procedures in Ontario. In light of this, Ford’s government is working to eliminate this backlog by offering procedures in these new locations.

The government is working to provide these procedures by establishing new partnerships in areas such as Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa, which will open up roughly 14,000 new cataract surgeries annually. The government is also ready to invest over $18 million towards MRI and CT scans, cataract surgeries, ophthalmic surgeries, plastic surgeries and minimally invasive gynecological surgeries in clinics. 

The government also plans to open up additional procedures by expanding the scope of surgical and diagnostic centres by allowing them the resources to complete new procedures, as well as invoking new legislation that will allow the conduction of more scans, as well as hip and knee replacements.

In addition to the new services being offered, the province has guaranteed that the operations will be covered under OHIP, so additional expenses at for-profit clinics will not be expected.

It is still unclear how much these updates are going to cost, however the government will be investing a total of $300 million towards its “surgical recovery strategy” on top of the $18 million invested towards scans and surgeries in clinics.

Although the decision is geared towards opening up thousands more surgeries each year and reducing wait times for operations, many remain concerned.

Various health care professionals, for example, are worried that the decision will benefit private sector clinics while reducing the resources currently being offered in publicly funded hospitals. There is also a concern for the care and safety of the patients that would be receiving these procedures, which is usually offered exclusively in the hospital system.

Investment into these clinics are also concerned to cause strain on the public health-care system, with staff moving to private sector clinics for better hours or pay, causing understaffing in hospitals.

Some have argued that although there is a need for certain surgeries to be performed outside of hospitals, these new locations should be run by non-profit hospitals over private businesses.

Despite this backlash, Ford has declared that these private facilities are needed and that Ontarians will never have to worry about using anything other than their OHIP card for any of these future procedures.

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