'Bill 30 is another attack on physicians': More concern over new bill
EDMONTON -- Those against Bill 30 say that the existing private clinics in Alberta haven’t helped wait times and question the effectiveness of more.
“Right now we have a complicated health system which requires patients to accommodate the system which really needs to be the inverse,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Monday.
Monday’s announcement of Bill 30 by the health minister was met with mixed reviews.
“What this does is it removes the ability of a publicly funded system and creates a private second tier,” said Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.
Some critics agreed with the minister that improved access to surgery is needed, but the disagreed with the method.
“There already is a hybrid model in Alberta,” said Dr. Chris Rudnisky.
Alberta already has more than 40 private clinics that cover about 15 per cent of surgeries like hip and knee replacements and cataracts.
The surgeries are currently paid for by the public healthcare system. Over 40,000 surgeries were held last year according to Steve Buick, the Press Secretary for the Health Minister.
Rudnisky said that in Calgary 97 per cent of surgeries are done through private clinics and paid for by public money.
Edmonton handles around 66 per cent of cataract surgeries at public facilities and has shorter wait times.
“It’s not clear to me why the government thinks opening more private suites is going to answer the wait times issue,” said Rudnisky.
“To me what would make more sense for the government to do would be to open more private suites but at the same time expand capacity within our existing centres.”
Rudnisky said at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, for example, ophthalmologists rarely use all six operating rooms.
“They are bought, paid for, they are already there. Literally you could hire more nurses and start doing more surgeries tomorrow,” said Rudnisky.
In a statement to CTV News Steve Buick said that the clinics already operating in Alberta offer surgeries at a lower cost than hospitals.
“They help make the public system more efficient in two ways: their costs are lower and they specialize, so they get more efficient at the services they’re contracted to do,” said Buick.
The NDP said on Monday that Bill 30 is an attempt to create a privatized healthcare system, something one University of Calgary law professor is worried would cause a backlog in hospitals.
“They (private clinics) tend to take the less complex, less sick, cheaper to treat cases from the public system and the public system is left with those more expensive and complex cases,” said Associate Professor Lorian Hardcastle.
She also expressed concern that clinics would prioritize profits over care.
“This is certainly what we’ve seen, for example, in the long term care sector with some of the quality concerns and the for-profit with foreign investors,” said Hardcastle.
“The way that they can do it cheaper is sometimes by hiring staff that have lower qualifications or fewer staff, (fewer) staffing hours per patient, those are some of the ways we can see that for-profit motive.”
Shandro stated that the quality of care would be in the hands of the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“It’s still going to be up to the college to determine the safety of the procedures provided within those facilities and the quality of care that the health professionals provide in those facilities.”
Buick also added that as part of the Alberta Surgical initiative the government would, “be working with AHS to ensure resources are allocated equitably and that all providers wait-list patients based on common clinical standards.”
More information on what Bill 30 would change is available here. The bill has yet to be passed.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Sarah Plowman