Lions Gate staff doing work for private eye clinic

News release

Although the Northmount Eye Surgery Centre in North Vancouver receives a $550 “facility fee” from the North Shore Regional Health Board for each eye surgery it performs, it still relies on hospital staff to perform some of the tasks necessary for these procedures.

The facility fee was negotiated with the board to include supplies, overhead — and staff. The Hospital Employees’ Union, which represents the workers who are preparing the surgical bundles to be carried over to the nearby clinic, is angry that their members are being used to subsidize a private for-profit clinic.

The union categorically opposes private for-profit clinics operating in violation of the Canada Health Act by charging facility fees — even if they are paid by a health authority. That HEU members should be utilized to buttress this arrangement is shocking, in the union’s opinion.

“Facility fees are user fees,” says assistant secretary-business manager Zorica Bosancic. “The government should be cracking down on these private for-profit clinics — not awarding them contracts.

“And then to collect those facility fees and still use hospital staff to fulfill contract obligations; that is outrageous.”

The hospital claims that its wait lists for cataract surgery have been reduced by 30 per cent. But a spokesperson for the regional health board says they don’t track patients, so they don’t really know if they’ve simply gone elsewhere to have their problems attended to or have indeed gone to Northmount.

The region has paid Northmount more than $500,000 between March 1999 and July of this year. The union says that if you factor in the labour performed by its members in each of the surgical procedures, the figure will climb substantially.

“We think that this arrangement is not as cost effective and successful as having these services provided inside the facility,” says Bosancic.

The union urges the Ministry of Health to put pressure on the regional health board to discontinue this contract and to enforce the Canada Health Act.