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Secrecy, Privatization & the Dilution of Public Accountability: the Chemotherapy Scandal

Martin Regg Cohn, Queen's Park columnist for the Toronto Star,  expressed his outrage at some length today at the College of Pharmacists.  Apparently, they did not answer media questions about the diluted chemotherapy drug scandal quickly enough.

But he says nothing of the response from the private corporation that actually mixed the chemotherapy drugs That company has -- according to the Star's sister paper, the Spectator -- repeatedly refused interview requests and refers questions to the Ministry of Health and LTC.  Early on, it reportedly threatened legal action if its name was mentioned and suggested the problem lay elsewhere.  As one CEO at an affected hospital said yesterday “They have not been forthcoming, for whatever reason, with a lot of information.”

This illustrates a key difference between public bodies and private corporations -- the former are expected by the public and the media to be open, the latter, not at all. 

So when you privatize public services, expect the latter. They are, after all, private corporations, run for private interests  -- even when funded by public money.

More Privatization Issues...
The Ontario College of Pharmacists now says the private company is not even licensed as an accredited  pharmacy. 

The privatization of the mixing of chemotherapy drugs is relatively new -- just like the privatization of many other aspects of health care that are being encouraged by the current government (e.g. private surgical clinics, P3 hospitals, and the replacement of public hospital and public long-term care services by private home care and private retirement homes).  Even those who support such privatization expect the government to have figured out basic oversight and public accountability before charging ahead with privatization.

But apparently not.      

The number of Ontario government scandals driven in large part by privatization just keeps growing and growing: the  Brampton P3 hospital, e-Health, the gas plant, Ornge – it’s hard to think of one that is not.

But the lessons learned by the government?  Not much -- just vein hopes to figure out how to privatize better next time. So expect more problems.

Update 12/04/13: Sure enough, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised better oversight of privatized companies providing chemotherapy mixtures, suggesting that Health Canada and the College of Pharmacists are working on this.  But she won't tell hospitals to bring the work back in house.  

As, with past privatization fiascos, the Liberals are vowing to do privatization better -- next time. 

Photo: Slow Poison, Slow Cure by Unhindered by Talent


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