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Should OHIP cover surgery in private clinics?

September 20, 2007 | 01:25 PM

Months-long waiting lists are a reality for patients awaiting surgery across the country. Conservative Leader John Tory says he'll fix the long delay in Ontario by allowing private clinics to handle things like knee or hip replacements for the public system.

He said private clinics can take pressure off the public system by performing procedures for the same fee charged by hospitals. His plan would have participating clinics accept only OHIP payments and not personal cheques or private insurance, thus preventing well-off individuals from jumping the queue.

Critics, meanwhile, say this could have a devastating effect on public health care by, among other things, luring specialists and professionals away from the public system. Some suggest it could also add to the public health-care tab if the doors are just thrown wide open.

How do you feel about private clinics being able to offer common surgeries? What effect do you think this would have on the health care system?

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Comments: (18)

Maureen Chill (Toronto) wrote:

One problem in our health care system is that we have imported a notion of 'private' from the penumbra of the American Constitution. Just exactly what separates a 'private' health care decision from a public one in Ontario -- particularly when, no matter how you slice it, the public is picking up the hidden costs?

At an all candidates meeting in Ottawa South, FCP David MacDonald asked McGuinty: "Yesterday you promised to shorten wait times for abortion... If abortion is a choice then it is elective surgery. How can you justify that while cancer patients wait 8 months for necessary treatment?" McGuinty replied "I believe a woman has a right to choose." But are women choosing?

Is it a 'private' matter that Ontario taxpayers are forced to pay $32M/yr on abortions -- to say nothing of the much higher cost of treating subsequent medical complications -- while resources are being diverted from equitable health care into reducing our future tax base?

Not only do McGuinty's beliefs make no economic sense but they marginalize the very people for whom he claims to be advocating.

Posted October 3, 2007 01:28 PM

James (Ottawa) wrote:

I am a strong supporter of public health care. Citizens of Ontario should not have to pay for the best health care. I believe if OHIP covered private clinic surgeries this would defeat the purpose of private health care clinics.I dont want to pay if one of my relatives needed urgent medical attention.

Posted September 29, 2007 11:32 PM

M Murphy (Toronto) wrote:

I don't see a problem with private MRI clinics, or other types of clinics, operating in Ontario if they accept OHIP for payment. People like McGuinty fear monger about this issue, that we will have US-style healthcare if we allow such clinics, implying you will need a credit card to see your doctor. Typical socialist nonsense.

If you are in desperate need of an MRI, you either wait 6 months on the waiting list (by then you could be dead), or else you have to beg for someone to allow you to jump the queue (if you know the right people it could save your life, but if you don't have the contacts you are out of luck). The third option is to go to New York state and pay a few thousand dollars for an MRI same day. This is the state of our healthcare system that everyone is so proud of. Its like living in the USSR where if you knew someone in the Communist Party you had access to things everyone else didn't.

We really need to wake up and start looking at fixing this broken system.

Posted September 25, 2007 02:00 PM

Mr. X (Ottawa) wrote:

Slippery slope eh...once again paranoia impeding progress. If a private sector can do the job better, lower cost, and not charge a user fee...so be it. In fact, I support user fees for our current system. Perhaps then and only then will hospitals be cleared from handling people with colds, sprained ankles, scrapes of little Johnny falling of his bike.

Posted September 25, 2007 09:26 AM

Ken (Toronto) wrote:


We already have number of health care areas that are user paid. We should evolve into a two tier system. A continued Public only system, administrated by an inefficient government beauracracy will be too slow and too costly tax wise when the baby boomer cohort come to the hospitals to roost in the next decade or two. They'll demand better service or they'll demand a change in the system. Some politician will offer it....and the dying boomers will elect him en masse and that will be that for the current version of the CHA.

The knee jerk argument against two tier is the US model.....wrong. The US situation is a lot different. Their litigious system has ballooned medical costs to the point where there is now serious discussion about a Universal Health Care system by the Democrats to provide coverage for millions who can't afford it. My point is, we would not necessarily follow the current US model. We should examine European models.

Allowing a segment of the population to fund a portion of their own health care would reduce the financial burden on the public system. The 80% of public only users or whatever that works out to be, should get better service because they get access to more than 80% of the public funds.

A number of issues need to be addressed such as loss of professionals to private facilities (train more nurses and MD's). That's why I advocate a slow (decade) long evolution to a two tiered system that exists everywhere else except Canada.

Posted September 24, 2007 01:41 PM

Donna Sawyer (Brockville) wrote:

Bring on the private clinics. Anyone who thinks we don't have a 2 tiered system now has his head in the sand.
I've been waiting 2 years for a knee replacement even though I'm single & must work to survive.

I know of people who have had their surgery after a 2 week wait. Of course they're "connected".

Let OHIP pay for the care anywhere the patient can find it.

Posted September 24, 2007 06:39 AM

Simon Chateauvert (Parry_Sound) wrote:

Why are there such long waiting lists? Is it a shortage of specialists, is it a shortage of beds,shortage of nurses, is it the cost of the surgery.If I new the reason why I would comment Thanks

Posted September 23, 2007 09:20 PM

Andy Brockway (Woodstock) wrote:

As a physician I have a somewhat divided opinion. I see first hand everyday the shortcomings of our current system and have to wonder why Canada is one of only two countries in the world where there is no parallel private pay system. Two tier does not have to mean American. There are examples throughout Europe where two tier works and works well. Unfortunately the Canada Health Act has become somewhat of an untouchable. Until we have leaders who have the guts to update and modernize the CHA we will continue to have waiting lists and inefficiencies galore.

On the other hand I fear that the root cause of the problem is much deeper. We will never have a system that works well as long as we continue with a sickness care system. Currently we have to wait until we are ill to access care. We fool ourselves into thinking that the annual checkup magically keeps us well as we poison ourselves with what we eat and breath and drink all day every day.

Medication costs are spiralling out of control as pharmaceutical companies profit from illness not wellness. Natural and complimentary treatments are ignored as doctors are not paid to keep people well. Rather than hoping to catch someone falling off a cliff wouldn't it be better to stop them from falling in the first place.

Posted September 21, 2007 11:29 PM

Carolynn McDonald (Toronto) wrote:

As imperfect as the health care system is perceived , allowing OHIP to be used in private clinics will not improvement. No funds from OHIP should be used in private clinics, it will lead down the slippery slope of the crappy US medicare.

Posted September 21, 2007 01:52 PM

AP (Owen_Sound_Ontario) wrote:

My family doctor referred me to a privately run clinic for a sleep disorder. This was completely covered by OHIP, and from the perspective of a patient I saw a seamless healthcare system that was able to treat me quickly and efficiently. There were no extra fees and no jumping the line. This privately run clinic made it possible for me to get the health care that I needed within two weeks and all within the OHIP system.

Therefore, based on my actual experience with a privately run participant in the health care system I can say that the health care system was actually improved and in no way diminished!

So why not allow this kind of privately run clinic participation to be expanded to include even more services? My experience tells me that allowing more privately run clinics can only improve things.

Posted September 21, 2007 11:16 AM

Devin (Sault_Ste_Marie) wrote:

Private clinics will lead to the Government saying that OHIP can't pay for anything done at these clinics, leading us into a system like the US has.

I ask you this: Why would you pay for something that you could get free someplace else, waiting a bit longer?

We do have a ways to go in terms of fixing our current system, but we CAN do it, we just need to lobby for better programs and funding for our current system.

If you all want to be showing your credit card while being taken to the hospital in the future, be my guest and support private clinics.

Posted September 21, 2007 11:05 AM

M Murphy (Toronto) wrote:

I agree with Wilson Bant, and I for one am not willing to die on a waiting list on a matter of principle. McGuinty closed the MRI facilities solely based on principle, and not on what is in the best interests of the people. You can bet that his family wouldn't be on any waiting list, but he has no problem forcing everyone else onto one.

There is no reason why the private sector cannot pick up some of the slack from the public system, as long as OHIP covers the treatment. There is real hypocrisy here when the province sends patients to private clinics in Buffalo or Ohio because we can't treat them here, but then we get a royal lecture on the evils of private healthcare from the Liberals at every election.

Posted September 21, 2007 10:55 AM

Wilson Bant (Toronto) wrote:

The current system is failing us,

When Dalton McGuinty closed private MRI clinics that accepted OHIP in 2003 the wait times tripled for regular people.

I think we are too concerned with the "Principal" of Public Health Care, and are not concerned enough with the "Practice".

If myself or my family was gravely ill I would not care where I received the treatment as long as it was provided in a timely manner, something the current public system is not doing.

Posted September 21, 2007 10:03 AM

Helen Hillman (Ottawa) wrote:


Posted September 21, 2007 09:46 AM

MH (Toronto) wrote:

This is a slippery slope. Once you allow the private, for-profit sector into the public realm... then all of a sudden the government can't afford to pay for things in the public sector. Who do you think will receive cuts first... private or public? Please... we aren't getting our eye exam, chiropractic or physiotherapy coverage back. What's next on the chopping block. Go see Michael Moore's film "Sicko" if you want to see where this road leads to... and of course... John Tory fully supports this scheme for his corporate puppet masters. HMOs... here we come!!!

Posted September 21, 2007 02:21 AM

Tom (Scarborough) wrote:

I strongly against provide funding on private health clinic and private school

Posted September 20, 2007 09:20 PM

M Murphy (Toronto) wrote:

I don't necessarily agree with this initiative, but I think it could be the tip of the iceberg of what is to come with healthcare. Of course everyone wants universal public healthcare for all, but the costs of this system are spiralling out of control. Health now accounts for close to 50% of the provincial budget. This is not a sustainable system in its present form, so its only a matter of time before we are forced to look at other options, including a mixed public and private system. We simply won't have a choice.

Politicians will have to eventually wade through that minefield, so I think Tory recognizes this and is at least trying to do something. But Liberals typically demonize anyone who tries to think outside the box on this issue.

Posted September 20, 2007 03:40 PM

Charlene Smith (WoodstockOntario) wrote:

I believe that the patient will be the ultimate one who pays if private clinics are opened.

I have heard the argument that only cases that aren't complicated would be performed but what is the criteria and who decides?

Next problem I have is if the doctors and nurses are lured to staff these private clinics,is it not going to create an even bigger shortage in hospitals than we already have?

As to this being said during an election,this is totally wrong.
It is using someone's medical condition as a means to garner votes.

Any politician who uses this type of thing,as no ethics or morals. It shows how low a politician or party will stoop to in order to get votes.

Posted September 20, 2007 02:18 PM

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