Campbell Liberals can’t back up health privatization plans — FOI

News release

After review by Premier’s office, health services ministry buries slender 53-page privatization library

The Gordon Campbell government won’t release the scant documentation it’s generated to support the wholesale privatization of health services, says B.C.’s largest health care union.

In response to a comprehensive freedom of information request filed by the Hospital Employees’ Union last February, the Ministry of Health Services has disclosed that it has just 55 pages of documents in its possession to justify government’s ambitious plans to privatize health services and facilities.

But after the requested information was vetted by the Premier’s office last month, the ministry has completely severed all but two pages of its thin privatization dossier before providing it to the union.

“Sound public policy making has taken a back seat to the ideological priorities of the Campbell Liberals,” says HEU spokesperson Zorica Bosancic. “After six months of searching, the Ministry of Health Services can’t produce a shred of evidence to support its aggressive health privatization plans.”

A confidential government budget document released by the union earlier this year revealed plans to privatize $700 million worth of health services and fire 20,000 health care workers.

HEU had sought a range of documents prepared by government or outside consultants, including: business case analyses to prove privatization is cost effective, studies, forecasts, briefing documents prepared for politicians and economic and social impact studies of the effects of privatization on workers and communities.

The Ministry of Health Services withheld 53 of 55 pages related to the request citing cabinet and ministerial confidentiality and the financial interests of the ministry or third parties. The union will attempt to gain access to the severed material through an appeal to the information and privacy commissioner.

But provincial freedom of information legislation specifically states government ministers can’t withhold any factual information including impact studies, economic forecasts, appraisals and other research.

“We can only conclude that the health services ministry is sitting on a lot of spin but very little substantive research to support the government's health care privatization agenda,” says Bosancic. “This government has failed to live up to its new era promise of providing the most open, transparent and accountable government in Canada.”

The health services ministry is the last government ministry to respond to HEU’s information request.

Two of the most vocal Liberal proponents of privatizing support services have been Premier Campbell and his labour minister, Graham Bruce. But similar requests to their offices failed to turn up any material backing up their claims that privatization was good for patients.

Finance minister Gary Collins — whose deputy has met extensively with multinational private health care corporations — could provide only a 15-page “introduction” extolling public-private partnerships (P3s). A further 170 pages of documents on capital asset management — so called private-public partnerships-were withheld.

Health planning minister Sindi Hawkins, whose ministry is supposedly in charge of detailed, long range health planning functions, could only provide the names of two consultants her ministry employed. But, her officials wrote, “the minister has no other information in response to your request.”

In contrast, numerous studies in peer-reviewed journals have pointed to the negative consequences of health privatization, including a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

And this past May, respected forensic auditor Ron Parks concluded that a privately owned and financed hospital in the Fraser Valley may be more costly than a publicly owned and financed facility.

The specific privatization details requested in HEU's FOI, along with the response from the Ministry of Health Services, can be accessed by clicking on the following links:

Details of HEU's FOI request

Response from the Ministry of Health Services

Contact: Mike Old, communications officer, 604-456-7039 (direct) or 604-828-6771 (cell)