'Always an upsell': health critic Gélinas pans Ford's OHIP plan

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas says northerners won’t benefit from Premier Doug Ford’s plan to expand the range of medical procedures performed in privately-run clinics.

Ontario Medical Association supporting more private health clinics, despite critics' warnings

France Gélinas addresses the provincial speaker in Queen's Park while other MPPs look on.
Health critic France Gélinas says the province's plan to allow more for-profit health care services means Ontarians will be paying out-of-pocket for medical procedures. (Screenshot from ONT PARL)

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas says northerners won't benefit from Premier Doug Ford's plan to expand the range of medical procedures performed in privately-run clinics.

On Thursday, Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones announced the three-phase plan, beginning with surgical and diagnostic clinics in Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo and Windsor performing an additional 14,000 cataract operations each year, which represents about 25 per cent of the province's current wait list for the procedure.

Next, more private clinics will be able to offer MRI and CT imaging, as well as colonoscopies and endoscopies.

The government intends that by 2024, the third phase will see hip and knee replacements performed at for-profit clinics.

"These procedures will be non-urgent, low-risk and minimally invasive and, in addition to shortening wait times, will allow hospitals to focus their efforts and resources on more complex and high-risk surgeries," the province said in a news release.

But Gélinas said the plan is a long way from the original vision of Tommy Douglas, where case care is based on needs, not your ability to pay.

"It's already happening," Gélinas said. "If you look at the cataract surgery, you have your cataract surgery done in the hospital. Nobody pays anything. But you have the same ophthalmologist, same surgeon doing the same procedures in their private clinic, and there is almost always an upsell."

"Another $150.00 to remeasure the eye, $400.00 to use a lens that they prefer, $1000 for this and that and the other thing," Gélinas said. 

Ontario expansion of for-profit clinics 'best way to go,' says premier

13 days ago
Duration 1:08
Ontario Premier Doug Ford dismissed concerns about more public money going to for-profit clinics to speed up access to certain medical procedures. Ford said the province is just expanding on an existing system.

Gélinas estimates that most private facilities are located in southern Ontario, while only a handful have set up shop in the north.

Once the province gives cities in the north the green light to open more private clinics, patients who choose to use their services can expect to be pushed to spend more money, Gélinas said.

"They find ways to make you pay and it's a barrier to care," Gélinas said. The province's motivation in permitting the clinics, Gélinas said, is for a handful of providers to make money.

There is a lot of money in health care- France Gelinas, NDP health critic

"There is a lot of money in healthcare," Gélinas said. "If you look at the budget, $76 billion in Ontario from taxpayers' money goes toward healthcare."

"A lot of people are interested in health care not because they want to help people, because they want to make money," she said. "There is a lot of money to be made off the back of sick people and it attracts a lot of investors."

But Dr. Stephen Cooper, District 9 chair of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), said doctors have been expecting this move from the province for awhile, and for the most part, are welcoming the plan.

"Sudbury and the entire northeast are struggling with managing wait lists, particularly in some of the surgical procedures," Cooper said. "So when it comes our way, I think it'll be of great benefit."

Cooper said the system, at its best, would allow private clinics to specialize, and help ease some of the congestion in hospitals.

"Hospitals struggle because they have to be all things to all people at all times," Cooper said. "Whereas with these clinics, they could be something to some people some of the time."

"By focusing on a particular area, they could [see] some efficiencies there. And by making the system more efficient, you're going to get more procedures per hours worked."

There will, however, be some challenges ahead for smaller communities in the north like Timmins and Moose Factory, Cooper said, where the volume of patients isn't high enough to sustain private clinics. 

But he's not convinced that the provincial plan will open the door to more American-style health care. People shouldn't harbour any fears about that style of delivery.

"This is not a new type of delivery of service. It's just expanding what's already available," Cooper said. "Diagnostics has been around for years. Larch Street [MyHealth Clinic in Sudbury]  has got a private clinic where you can get ultrasounds and x rays already."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made an announcement about allowing for-profit clinics to offer more surgeries, which Ontarians use their OHIP cards to pay for.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford made an announcement about allowing for-profit clinics to offer more surgeries, which Ontarians use their OHIP cards to pay for. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

"And hospitals do it already," he said. "I mean, do you want no TV or do you want a TV?"

Cooper said it's important to give patients credit for being able to make choices.

"I do think that there needs to be, obviously, some accountability," he said. "Because people will push it a little bit and patients may not be aware that there's choices there."

"But the OMA is very clear. You should be able to get the best care anywhere in the world as part of your OHIP…and we strongly believe that."


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