Albertans are somewhat divided about how much privatization to allow in the health-care system, a new poll commissioned by the CBC suggests.

Of the 804 people who took part in the telephone survey, 43 per cent want to see the availability of private services limited, while 25 per cent think there is currently the right balance of public and private services.


A surgical team works together during a back operation at a private Canadian health care facility in Calgary, Alberta. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

The poll also found that 24 per cent of respondents think the scope of private health-care services should be expanded.

"Privatization is not a central concern at this time, probably due to the fact that a sizeable number of Albertans are using and paying for private services like MRIs," Bruce Cameron of NRG Research Group, the company that conducted the poll, said Wednesday.

"The problem of wait times makes between one-third and one-half of Albertans consider paying for faster service," he said.

"Nevertheless, expanding the provision of private services is not supported — most would like to see the status quo remain or even limit the number of private services offered," Cameron said.

Maintaining the status quo is a good thing, according to Dr. Tom Noseworthy, a Calgary physician.

"When you direct comparisons between for-profit and not-for-profit care, for-profit care cuts corners, the quality indicators are never as good, the cost is not cheaper, and access is difficult because it is based on your ability to pay," Noseworthy said.

"Anybody that thinks for-profit private delivery is going to help the public system should think again because it doesn't work that way. It may help the person that wants choice, that's got the bucks and wants services right away, but if you think you are going to help the masses with that, think again," he added.

Noseworthy is in favour of more privately provided services, as long as they are publicly funded and tightly regulated.

Results from the poll, conducted in mid-September, are being released as part of series of stories on health care being done by the CBC. The poll is considered accurate within 3.5 percentage points, 95 per cent of the time.