Canada

Private clinic operation 'no secret', says Layton

NDP Leader Jack Layton, who has campaigned as a defender of public health care, is answering questions regarding a hernia surgery he had at a private clinic in the 1990s.

NDP Leader Jack Layton, who has campaigned as a defender of public health care, is answering questions regarding a hernia surgery he had at a private clinic in the 1990s.

Layton had the operation at the Shouldice Hospital in the Toronto suburb of Thornhill while he was a Toronto city councillor.

But Layton told the Canadian Press he wasn't aware the clinic was a private facility.

"It's just part of the system," Layton said in an interview. "The doctor says, 'Go there.' You pay with your (Ontario health) card. It never occurred to me (it was) anything other than medicare, which it is.

"I can tell you now, if my doctor ever refers me anywhere, I'll ask him that question. It never occurred to me at the time. It wasn't a controversy at the time. It wasn't something on one's mind."

Layton stressed that the Shouldice facility is a not-for-profit facility that has been part of the Ontario medical system for decades

He said the surgery was well publicized at the time and that he has not been trying to hide his operation at the clinic.

"This was no secret, believe me," he said. "Heck, [Toronto] Mayor [Mel] Lastman came to visit me there. Every family I knew, every middle-aged man that ever ran into a hernia, went to Shouldice. It's part of the system."

Earlier in the campaign, Layton said he would not go to a private clinic nor would he send a loved one to a private clinic, even if he could get faster treatment.

now