A new report released Thursday indicates that privatizing health care in Ontario will not reduce wait times but could instead increase them.
Indeed, for-profit centers could just as easily face the staffing shortages plaguing the public sector, and any talent attracted to the private model will in turn reduce public hospital staffing, according to the Canadian Policy Center report. alternatives. .
“Increasing surgical and diagnostic capacity depends on the availability of trained personnel, which is not magically increased by the addition of profits,” said Andrew Longhurst, report author and health policy researcher at Simon Fraser University, in a press release Thursday.
“Increased outsourcing risks worsening staff shortages in public hospitals, leading to longer waiting times. »
Problems with making health care more for-profit include higher costs, reduced staffing in the public system, as well as upselling, self-referrals and unnecessary procedures, Longhurst said.
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Raisa Deber, a health policy professor at the University of Toronto, told Global News that private health care differs from many other services because it is needs-based. For-profit centers could therefore overcharge or sell services that are not necessary given the consumer’s lack of knowledge but need. for care.
“One of the problems we have is that market forces don’t work in health care,” she said.
“People get very nervous when you start adding for-profit activities, because that gives absolutely bad incentives to providers. »
She cited the example of the pharmaceutical industry, where drugs can be sold at higher prices to generate profits and are still purchased by consumers because they are necessary.
Although privatization of some services is being considered in provinces like Ontario and others due to long wait times and backlogs in the public system, the report notes that wait times in Ontario for “of “many priority procedures” are the shortest in Canada, such as hip surgeries. and knee replacement in 2022.
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In May, the Ontario government passed Bill 60, which encourages the growth of for-profit health care for certain surgeries and imaging. Less than 2 per cent of surgeries in Ontario were performed in for-profit facilities in 2021-22, the CCAC said.
Rather than turning to privatization, the report recommends efforts to improve the public system, “and not to undermine it.”
“Ontario has no shortage of physical space and equipment to reduce wait times for surgeries and medical imaging; what’s missing is the healthcare staff and funding to do the job,” Longhurst said.
The report recommends funding and staffing underutilized operating rooms in public hospitals and performing surgeries in the evenings and weekends, as well as increasing hospital bed capacity.
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