Ontario to buy private clinics

Ontario to buy private clinics
Talks held to make 7 MRI facilities public

Action is `dogma-driven,' Tory MPP says


OTTAWA—The provincial government is striking back at the creeping privatization of medicare by preparing to buy seven private clinics and bring them into the public fold, Canadian Press has learned.

Secret talks may lead to the province taking over for-profit MRI and CT clinics in a move that could foreshadow the federal government's plan to save the public system.

The province has been under pressure since it reintroduced health premiums in its budget.

A spokesperson for Premier Dalton McGuinty confirmed that negotiations are under way.

"We are committed to delivering on our (election) platform commitment to bring MRI clinics back to the public realm and the ministry of health is working hard to make this a reality," said the spokesperson, who asked not to be named.

"It's consistent with our values of accessible and universal health care."

An angry Conservative MPP, Frank Klees (Oak Ridges), said the first millions from the health premiums will go to paying for the buyouts, which he said are driven purely by ideology. He accused the provincial government of making the move to position itself for coming federal-provincial talks on health care, in which Ontario is expected to be the federal Liberals' biggest supporter.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has invited premiers to a first ministers conference on medicare in September. Martin has promised to pump $9 billion into a system groaning under the strain of an aging population.

Private clinics have popped up in several provinces, offering quicker diagnostic care for those willing to pay hundreds of dollars to jump the queue.

Ontario's clinics were set up under the Conservative government and have five-year contracts worth a total of $4.6 million a year, documents say.

Clinics in Kingston, Thunder Bay, Kitchener and Richmond Hill are to be transferred to new non-profit entities, while the government proposes to purchase clinics from Diagnosticare/CML at Ajax, Huntsville and Mississauga.

Three out of four clinic operators — Superior Imaging Inc., Kingston MRI Inc. and KMH Cardiology Centres Inc. — have made proposals to the government for conversion of the facilities to non-profit entities, the documents say.

A fourth operator, DC Diagnosticare Inc., is a publicly traded corporation and has offered to sell its assets to the government. Ontario has made an initial offer of $14 million.

Sources close to the Premier could not say when the buyback plan would take effect or what the eventual price-tag would be for purchasing the clinics and hiring the staff, the Star's Robert Benzie reports.

It is also unclear if the clinics have any avenue for opposing the government takeover.

Klees said the move is a slap in the face to every Ontario voter.

"When Ontarians see that new health tax deducted from their cheque they should know that they're paying for this sham. It's clearly dogma-driven and does nothing to add one service to anyone in this province.

"What I see here is a political play leading up to the meeting that Dalton McGuinty and other premiers are going to have with the Prime Minister. This is all about positioning for that meeting."

All of the clinics were created under the Ontario Independent Health Facilities Act under ex-premier Ernie Eves. The Liberals promised during last fall's election that they would move the clinics into the public domain.

"The Harris-Eves government opened private, two-tier MRI and CT clinics," the Liberal platform said. "These clinics will sell vanity scans alongside public services, giving quicker access to those who can afford to buy their way to the front of the line.

"We will cancel the Harris-Eves private clinics and replace them with public services," the Liberals promised.

Ray Foley, executive director of the Ontario Association of Radiologists, said he welcomes the government's move to eliminate investor-owned clinics as promised. "The priority is the public system," he said.

But he added that the clinics in Kingston and Thunder Bay are run by radiologists who are working closely with public hospitals in their communities and he doesn't regard them as being for-profit operations.

Foley said he did not believe the structure of those clinics needed to be changed.

I hope that Ontarians appreciate that the largest tax increase in their history is going towards buying these evil private clinics.

Talk about NOT having your priorities straight.

Similar Threads

NP's to head new Ont. clinics
by Nuggler | Feb 23rd, 2009
by Andem | Apr 21st, 2008
Ontario Private Clinics Illegal
by Jersay | Jan 30th, 2006
no new posts