HEU launches campaign against labprivatization in Victoria

News release

Hospital Employees' Union members in the Victoria-area are launching a public campaign to fight the privatization of laboratory services in area hospitals. The campaign begins today with radio ads that will be broadcast in the Capital region. HEU is raising the alarm over discussions taking place between Capital Health Region administrators and Toronto-based health care corporation, MDS Inc., that could lead to privatization of various aspects of the health region's laboratory services including lab management and information systems. And in a report released today, HEU unveiled details of MDS' links to the controversial private hospital in Calgary that stands to benefit from Alberta premier Ralph Kleinís proposal to allow the contracting out of surgical services. "In both Calgary and the Capital Health Region, MDS is at the centre of efforts to privatize parts of public health care," says Allnutt. "It's a disturbing connection and one that has strengthened our resolve to prevent private companies like MDS from making further incursions into our public Medicare system." Directly and through funds it manages, MDS has sunk $3 million into the Health Resources Group, the operators of a private hospital in Calgary that is poised to cash in on Kleinís surgical services privatization plan. Three MDS representatives are on the HRG board of directors. And since August, MDS and the Capital Health Region in Victoria have been involved in closed door talks on the possible privatization of hospital-based diagnostic laboratory services. HEU says any discussions on major lab restructuring should take place at a provincial level. The health ministry, in consultation with private lab companies, health authorities and unions, suggested a mechanism for such discussions last August. HEU's report, Partnering for Profit, undermining Medicare: A comprehensive investigation of MDS Inc., raises questions about whether MDS joint ventures to deliver lab services with public health authorities in Alberta and Ontario had achieved projected cost savings. The investigation also found that these joint ventures operated behind a veil of secrecy that prevented public scrutiny and accountability. The report can be downloaded from www.heu.org in Adobe Acrobat format.