St. Paul's Hospital surgery privatization bad for patients

News release

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Another promise broken by B.C. Liberals

A move by St. Paul's Hospital to privatize 1,000 day surgery procedures will lead to longer waits in public hospitals and is more evidence that the Gordon Campbell Liberals have long forgotten their promise to B.C. patients to make private clinics redundant, says the Hospital Employees' Union.

In a 2000 interview with the HEU newspaper, the soon-to-be premier claimed that he wanted to "get the public system back firing on all cylinders so that (private clinics) become redundant."

Instead, private clinics have expanded their operations fueled by a series of moves by B.C.'s health authorities to contract out elective day surgeries.

And last December, Premier Campbell - under pressure from the private clinic lobby -refused to proclaim a law passed by the B.C. legislature that would have given the province the power to audit private clinic operations to prevent improper billing of patients for services covered by the Medical Services Plan.

HEU's acting secretary-business manager Zorica Bosancic says that over the long run, contracting out surgical procedures will lead to longer waits for patients.

"Surgeons and OR nurses can't clone themselves - they're either working in public hospitals or private clinics," says Bosancic. "So in the short-term, contracting out surgeries will merely shuffle around wait lists but at a higher cost to taxpayers.

"Over the long run, this government's policy of surgery privatization will result in longer waits in our public hospitals as operating room capacity is reduced - as it has been at St. Paul's - and as personnel are shifted to private clinics."

Bosancic says that the government's surgical waitlist crisis is a direct result of their mismanagement of the nursing strategy - and their failure to take action early in their term to strengthen the public delivery of surgical procedures.