Online Health Articles

Private Surgical Clinics

to reduce both wait times and health costs

Elective surgery performed in private clinics

     One of the reasons that you have to wait so long for that hip or knee replacement is simply the excessive bureaucracy of our hospitals. They are large complex, inflexible bureaucracies with a number of different unions.

A great example of this is an incident recently at North York Branson Hospital in Toronto. An elderly woman leaving after a visit fell unconscious just outside the doors of the hospital. When passersby asked the hospital staff to transport the woman to emergency they refused because the rules forbid them. They had to call an ambulance and send it to the front door to pick up the woman and then deliver her to emergency.

For those of you who have had surgery done at the hospital, how many visits to doctors and specialists did it take? How many appointments did you have to make for x-rays, ultrasounds, CAT scans or MRIs? All of this including the surgery could have been done in one place, a free standing clinic devoted to orthopaedic surgery.

You would think that building a whole structure and having all the machinery for the tests and the operating rooms for the surgery would be hugely expensive. The fact is not only do waiting times almost disappear but the actual costs of the operation will be reduced by somewhere between 28 per cent and 50 per cent.

This has actually been done in the province of Saskatchewan, the province of Tommy Douglas, the founder of our Medicare system. In 2010 due to excessive wait times for surgeries, the province started contracting out elective surgeries to private clinics. The unions were very upset because these were non-union facilities. Many physicians warned that the costs would be excessive and wanted more money and more operating rooms in the hospital.

Under the new system waiting times almost disappeared but that was expected. What was not expected was that the actual costs for the operations went down from a minimum of 28 per cent to almost half of what it originally cost in the hospital. For decades we have had the Shouldice Hospital in Toronto that does nothing but hernia operations. Hernia operations at this facility cost less than half of what the same operation would cost at a Hamilton hospital. In Stoney Creek we have St. Joseph’s Health Care with a dedicated surgical unit strictly for eye surgery. This is extremely important because in many cases if emergency surgery is not performed immediately a patient may lose the sight of an eye.

Anybody who needs any type of elective surgery, from gall bladder removal to shoulder surgery would love to come to one facility, have all  the pictures taken and then come back a few days later for the actual operation. It may not sound like a big thing but isn’t just parking at a hospital a big pain.

Private clinics are a win-win situation. Not only do they make life so much easier for the patient, they actually reduce health care costs while at the same time providing a higher and better degree of service to the patient.

Tommy Douglas was the leader of the NDP party when he introduced universal health care, but if he were alive today he would not allow the unions and the bureaucracy of the hospital to stand in the way of providing better health care and reducing costs.

If we continue the way we are going and keep putting more and more of our tax dollars into hospitals it means less and less money for education and social services. If more money goes to providing health care for sick people than educating our youth, our country will be in serious trouble down the road. A recent study showed that Canadians born between 1958 and 1967 will consume over $4000 more in health care benefits than they will pay in health care taxes. But people born between 1998 and 2007 (your grandchildren) will pay over $18,000 more in health care taxes than they will receive in benefits.

Eventually we will have to change the tax system so that healthy people will get extra deductions for being a non-smoker, for being in good health and for not over-using the health system. The rest of the population with their heart conditions, Type 2 diabetes and obesity related diseases will just have to pay a higher portion of their taxes for health care because they are the ones using the system the most.

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