9/13/11

The PCs wants to privatize. So, what happened the last time they tried?

An important part of the Progressive Conservative platform is privatization.  So it's worth looking at the results of the privatization initiatives they took the last time they were in government.  One notable PC initiative was "patient transfers".

The Ontario Progressive Conservative government introduced legislation in 2000 allowing hospitals to use for-profit "patient transfer" companies rather than ambulances to move patients between hospitals or long-term care facilities if the patient was in stable condition.

This led to a drastic increase in the number of patients transferred by for-profit companies.

Despite assurances prior to the legislative changes from then Minister of Health Elizabeth Witmer and her parliamentary secretary Tim Hudak, now the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, minimum standards for staff or equipment were never developed by the ministries of health or transportation (nor have they been developed under the last 8 years of Liberal government, although the Libs now say they will bring in legislation of some sort if re-elected...).

A CBC radio documentary interviewed patient transfer attendants and found that while some were qualified paramedics, many had no medical training beyond a basic CPR certificate. They were often paid in the range of $11 to $13 an hour.

The reporter notes that workers within the industry who express concern to their dispatch operators about their patients’ safety are routinely suspended or fired.

Workers recounted experiences such as trucks catching on fire and lug nuts shearing off wheels. In both of those cases, patients were aboard the trucks. One worker said she was ordered by her dispatcher to drop off a homeless patient in a back alley of Toronto.

The Ombudsman followed up the CBC documentary with his own report on this industry earlier this year. He was equally scathing.

Ontario residents would be better off taking a taxi to a hospital than one of the privately owned vehicles used to transfer hundreds of thousands of non-critical patients each year, provincial watchdog Andre Marin told the Canadian Press.

“Of all the cases that I’ve done since I’ve been ombudsman, this is a case where I’ve rarely seen such incontrovertible and conclusive and convincing evidence early on, that was really not in dispute,” he said. Marin said

It's allowed private companies to charge hundreds of dollars per patient for transports in old, beat-up ambulances operated by “kids” with no medical training, he said.

"They place people's lives in serious jeopardy,'' Marin said.

Even with these results, the Progressive Conservatives want to launch another round of privatization. 

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