Hold public hearings on VGH P3 clinic, says health coalition

Medicare advocates are calling on the BC government and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority to hold immediate public hearings into their scheme to privatize the financing and operation of a new ambulatory care centre at Vancouver General Hospital.

The BC Health Coalition is also challenging the health authority to release its business case for the $90 million public-private partnership so that the public can judge for themselves whether the project is financially sound, provides better health services and wont trigger expensive and risky trade disputes.

The privately financed and operated facility would include day surgery, walk-in clinics.

-The premier promised open and accountable government," says BCHC coordinator Terrie Hendrickson. -Privatizing health care on a Saturday morning with no notice and few details is a clear betrayal of this commitment. On the other hand, open hearings would provide the public with an opportunity to ask questions about a major shift in the way health services are delivered in this province."

Hendrickson says P3 financing schemes have come under heavy scrutiny in the United Kingdom where health authorities have been saddled with higher costs, lower levels of patient care, inferior construction and administrative inefficiencies.

Last month, the UKs Association of Chartered Certified Accountants released a survey of its public sector members in which only one per cent strongly agreed that private finance arrangements provide value for money while more than half disagreed with this statement (available at www.accaglobal.com). That reinforces a finding by the UKs National Audit Office released this past June that concluded government and local authorities were relying too much on spurious figures to prove whether private financing provided good value for money.

Respected forensic auditor Ron Parks concluded in a report commissioned by the Hospital Employees Union that the business case for a P3 hospital in Abbotsford ... a project cabinet has not yet endorsed ... was based on suspect data and -should not be used as the basis for a definitive government decision."

And today, the Romanow Commission released a summary report on globalization and health which stated that increasing commercialization of hospital and clinical services -reduces the protection afforded to Canadian health-related measures by the safeguards in trade agreements."

Hendrickson says that if the government and its health authority are confident that its plans can stand up to public scrutiny, they should release the business case and hold open hearings on the matter.

HSA is a member of the BC Health Coalition.