Liberals support more private clinics - even as clinics turn on them

The Ontario government has gotten into another donnybrook with private clinics for a second time in less than a year.  

Over the summer, they got into a messy dispute with private physiotherapy clinics.

The government stopped 94 physiotherapy clinics from directly billing OHIP. Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said that, over the years, licences to provide these services have been bought up by large corporations.  Moreover, she charged, the "existing 94 clinics have had an unlimited ability to bill the government and have become very creative in they way they bill."

The government claimed that an audit of 15,000 records from the clinics found that 58% of them failed to support OHIP billings.  Five-minute exercise classes were sometimes billed as physiotherapy,  care plans did not measure up, record keeping was incomplete, and  physician referrals were sometimes lacking.

“There is extraordinary growth in expenditures and the audit was one of those factors that just demonstrated to me that there were companies who were just taking advantage of the way the program was set out and taking advantage of their unlimited ability to bill OHIP,” Health Minister Deb Matthews told theStar.

Despite this, the government is actually turning more work over to private clinics, planning to turn over hospital surgeries and other hospital work.

But now the government is back at war with private clinics: the newly established private plasma clinics. The government, opposed to their plan to pay people for their plasma, wants to shut them down.

But the clinics refuse. Indeed, they say they need no license from the government to operate .

In the face of this open defiance, Health Minister Deb Matthews has been reduced to calling in inspectors and threatening to get a court order.  New legislation is also threatened. 

“I expect any company operating in Ontario, and especially in the health care sector, to operate within our laws,” Matthews told the Toronto Star.

But she admits it may take time to shut the clinics down.

The private clinics remain unmoved: “Until that act is passed, the legal opinion we have is we don’t need a licence from the provincial government.”

It sounds a bit like they are playing for time -- an election is coming and, perhaps, a Progressive Conservative government would be more friendly.

With this sort of attitude, it's hard to know why the Liberals are so hell-bent to bring in more private clinics to take over public hospital work.

The Ontario Health Coalition is setting up community and workplace votes in communities across the province to stop the privatization of public hospitals to private clinics. OCHU/CUPE is working with the OHC to help facilitate the vote April 5.  See the OHC web page for details for how you can help, or contact OCHU.

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