Friday, September 10, 2010

Bring out the boogeyman

In Saskatchewan, we are so entrenched with universality and collectivity, that any ideas of doing business in a new or economical way are easily put aside with one word - privatization - our bogeyman.

In today's SP, in the Letters to the Editor section, Gordon Campbell, president of the health-care council of the Canadian Union of Public Employees states that the provincial government's decision to use private clinics to provide services to patients, many of whom have been wait-listed or six months to a year, is simply a way for the Wall government to privatize health care. He also states that "CUPE members who work in public health care are telling us operating rooms and CT scanners could be much better used" but he doesn't state how that could happen.

This of course flies in the face of earlier comments from the Canadian Medical Association that health care is in peril if we don't find new ways of delivering service. It further contradicts the fact that other provinces have used private clinics to support the publicly funded health systems, which is still surviving in those jurisdictions.

As I understand it, private clinics will receive the same fee for service as does a public clinic. Right now doctors are taking Saskatoon patients to hospitals in places such as Humboldt because they have better access to surgery time. The problem is only those patients who can get themselves to Humboldt get the service. And should there be a problem and the patient has to be returned to Saskatoon, the patient bears a very expensive ambulance bill.

I recall recently a news report that the unions were going to court to challenge a Health Authority's decision to use private clinics. Since when did the unions take over delivery of the medicare system in this province?

Saskatchewan has waved the banner of pride in being the home of publicly funded health care. The system has problems and we should be applauding those who are trying to find ways to fix it.

Put the bogeyman back in the box and start to think outside of it.


  1. Same old union bully tactics as always in Saskatchewan. I sure hope union members are aware their dues are going to fight holding back the medical system as a whole. If they can't do the work, then by gosh no one will, for better or worse to the people they claim to serve.

    And they wonder why they have such a hard time garnering public support from the majority. As always, Sask Unions prove themselves selfish and self-serving.

  2. While I am somewhat ambivelant on the existance of private clinics there are a few things that don't add up.

    If this is to aleviate a backlog (which appears to be consistant, not growing) then once the backlog is gone, the existing public facilities will be able to handle the demand. But opening a private clinic comes at a very high capital investment. One that will take years to pay off. No one would make that investment unless they knew they would have a steady stream of patients for the long term.

    If a private clinic is getting paid the same as a public facility, the only way to make a profit is to cut costs. There wouldn't be much room for savings in the cost of the equipment and other overhead, so the major savings would come in the cost of labour. I'm not sure I want my medical care in the hands of people who were not qualified to get a job as a nurse (or whatever) in the public system (here or other provinces, or public or private overseas) and is willing to accept lower wages.

    Often, especially with skilled personnel the public sector can pay better wages, though this is not always true. Take the City for example, they can't keep their hands on skilled trades because the private sector is paying more while the City is locked into a contract and can't arbitrarily raise pay rates to match to attract staff.

    I've run a business before. In my experience, good talent costs money. You usually get what you pay for.

    A fellow employee at a former employer once uttered words that have always stuck with me. When a manager suggested (in very abusive language) that he should work harder and faster (which he was more than capable of doing) his response was " you pay me minimum wage, you get minimum wages worth of work. If you want more, so do I"

    So how are these private clinics going to a) stay in business for the long term, to make a return on their investor's money? and b) keep their expenses down and turn a profit?

    Do they already know they will have a long term, steady stream of patients even after the backlog is gone?

    Low wages? Which will attract what quality of staff? Cut corners (health, safety, etc)?

    But like any good hypothesis, it might be worth some experimental testing.


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