12/3/12

Liberals prevent public reporting of failed private clinics

Queen's Park in Darkness (Grant MacDonald)
Yesterday I fumed about the gall of one academic who claimed that privatized P3s (public private partnerships) had actually increased public transparency.

Even more evidence came today that privatization leads to a lack of transparency.  Not only is the Ontario government turning more surgeries and procedures over to private clinics, they have contracted out the oversight of these outfits to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Today, the Toronto Star reports that the College of Physicians claims that legislation passed by the Liberals putting the College in charge of inspections of these clinics, also prevents the College from actually telling the public which clinics are providing sub-standard care!  "We are not allowed to discuss the failed premises" says the College president, Dr. Bob Byrick.  As a result, we do not even know where the clinics are located. It remains unclear if even the Ministry of Health & LTC is told which clinics are failing.

Of the 251 clinics inspected, nine clinics failed to pass the test outright and another 64 others passed only with conditions.  One hundred and seventy-eight passed.   In other words, 29% of private clinics are substandard in some way.  Now wouldn't you like to know which is which?

College of Physicians (Grant MacDonald)
The Star notes that the report doesn't say whether the failed clinics are still open, identify the doctors who work in them, or reveal if any of those doctors face disciplinary action.

Perhaps the only good news is that the College report claims that "If a premises receives an inspection grade of 'fail' members of the College are prevented  from performing the regulated procedures that could put the public at risk." Good to know -- but too narrow to be reassuring.

While some might feel the government has put the Colonel in charge of the hen house, even this miserable level of inspection and public reporting is an improvement. The College report brags that prior to 2010 "no organization in Ontario had the authority to regulate these out-of hospital premises."  Indeed, the College sees the inspections as a big achievement: “This program is a real success story for quality improvement and public protection in Ontario,”said Dr. Rocco Gerace, College Registrar.

The College does at least claim that it wants to increase transparency of the program "by facilitating information sharing with the public regarding the results of premises inspections. The College is currently exploring how this can be achieved." But what this might mean remains unclear.

The push for at least some oversight of private clinics began after a Krista Styland died after undergoing liposuction at a private clinic in 2007.

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