The Liberal government’s love affair with private medical clinics is putting patients’ lives at risk, opposition critics say.
They were reacting to a Sunday Toronto Star story revealing that 13 per cent of Ontario health clinics, which perform procedures such as cosmetic surgery, colonoscopies and pain injections, have not met inspection standards since they began in 2011.
“It is appalling. The Liberal government is pushing this model of care way faster that we are able to make sure that they are safe,” NDP MPP France Gélinas (Nickel Belt) told the Star after raising the matter in the legislature during question period Monday.
“People in Ontario expect their health care system to help them, not to make them sick, but this government’s risky experiment in off-loading surgery to private clinics has failed to live up to that standard,” she told the Legislature, where she urged Health Minister Eric Hoskins to put a moratorium on new clinics in Ontario until the proper oversight is put in place.
But Hoskins said instead he has asked Health Quality Ontario to lead an evaluation of current oversight programs in such clinics and to make recommendations on improvements.
“It is certainly of concern to me,” Hoskins said later, adding that besides improved oversights he would like to see improved transparency as these clinics continue to multiply.
“I believe we need to proactively and publicly disclose more information so that the public is aware and can make informed choices,” he told the Star.
Hoskins said he expects the review will take less than six months,
Of the 330 clinics the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has inspected since 2011, 44 have fallen short of meeting standards, reported the Star after doing its own analysis of the college statistics.
Twelve failed inspections and 33 were given conditional passes — some of them, two or even three times. (One clinic received both a fail and a conditional pass. An additional 22 clinics — not counted in the 13 per cent — were given conditional passes because they were either new or offering new procedures, not because they had not met standards.)
Queen’s Park gave regulatory oversight of the clinics to the college following a Star investigation into regulatory concerns with Ontario’s cosmetic industry after the 2007 death of Krista Stryland, a young mother who underwent liposuction at a Toronto cosmetic clinic.
Interim Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Wilson said the health ministry is not doing its job of keeping a close eye on these clinics.
“They should be on top of it given that they are encouraging private clinics,” he said, adding the private clinics should be held to the same standards as hospitals.
“If this was a hospital they would have inspectors in there and supervisors . . . and they are not doing it. Patient safety is going to be at risk and patients are going to die,” Wilson said.
In September, the Star revealed that patients suffered serious infections after being treated at pain and colonoscopy clinics. The outbreaks were kept secret by the Toronto Public Health and or the College of Physicians and Surgeons.