Nova Scotia

N.S. government considers more private health care to address surgical backlogs

Nova Scotia is looking at expanding the role of private clinics in its publicly funded system, Health Minister Michelle Thompson said Friday.

Provincial health minister says she’s paying close attention to privatization experiments in Ontario

Minister of Health and Wellness Michelle Thompson said Friday the government is committed to a publicly funded health-care system. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia is considering expanding the role of private clinics to help clear the province's surgical backlog, Health Minister Michelle Thompson said Friday.

"I do feel at this point in time, if there is capacity in a private/public partnership, that we do need to address that and we want to shorten the wait times for Nova Scotians, we want to improve access," Thompson told CBC News in an interview.

She said she's paying close attention to Ontario's latest move to expand the work of private health-care providers paid for under the province's medicare plan.

More than 26,000 patients were waiting for surgery as of May 2022, according to Nova Scotia Health. 

"If we do any type of public/private partnership, it will be to the benefit of the patients and it will require that there be uniform access and that there is no queue jumping or any preferential treatment," she said. 

Nova Scotia already has partnerships with private health-care facilities. Scotia Surgery, a private clinic in Dartmouth, performs elective and out-patient surgeries. And the government pays for dental and cataract surgeries at private clinics that specialize in the procedures.

Patients using private clinics go through the province's referral system so no one gets service faster by going to a private facility, Thompson said.

Private care cuts too many corners, critics say

But Alexandra Rose, provincial co-ordinator of the Nova Scotia Health Coalition, says private care is a danger to public health-care, even when it's funded by the government. The NSHC opposes privatization of health care in the province. 

"When you contract out to private facilities they often cut corners in order to, of course, make a profit even if it's this kind of hybrid model," she said.

She worries that patients won't receive the same quality of care, in terms of cleanliness and staffing levels, at a private facility.

Private care increasing across Canada

Ontario recently announced it will fund more private clinic surgeries in order to ease the burden on their public system. 

Thompson says the government will assess whether the type of public/private partnerships Ontario plans could also work in Nova Scotia. 

"We are interested to see what Ontario is doing but we are committed to a publicly funded system in Nova Scotia and we are not interested in privatization or delegating things to a private company that would be a cost to Nova Scotians," Thompson said.


Eesha Affan


Eesha Affan is a 2022 Joan Donaldson Scholar at CBC News.