If the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is taking its role as an inspection body for private health clinics seriously, you can’t tell from the cringe-inducing results.
One in seven clinics — including those performing procedures as varied as colonoscopies, cosmetic surgery, hair transplants and abortions — is failing or passing with conditions.
Worse, some of those conditional passes are given out two or even three times in a row — or even because a clinic is new, not because it is meeting standards.
The college is setting the bar for clinics to continue operating very low, indeed. And it gets worse.
How tough is it to pass with conditions? Not very, it would seem.
According to stories researched by Star reporter Theresa Boyle, the Rothbart Centre for Pain Care, for example, could pass with conditions despite the fact that nine patients developed serious infections, including meningitis, and the clinic had 170 (yes, 170) infection-control deficiencies.
Ontario’s patients deserve better. Their health — indeed their lives — depends on it.
That’s why it’s time Health Minister Eric Hoskins established a separate body — with regulatory teeth — to inspect Ontario’s growing number of private health clinics. As medical negligence lawyer Paul Harte put it: “Imagine an airline industry where one in 10 planes does not pass scrutiny. The frequency and intensity of inspections needs to be immediately stepped up.”
Is the college up to the task? Apparently not. Up until last year the college did not even name clinics that failed inspections.
And anyone looking at the postings of its inspections online would not know, for example, that the nine patients at the Rothbart Centre had developed serious infections, or that 11 patients of three colonoscopy clinics acquired hepatitis C, possibly through tainted injections.
That secrecy is ongoing despite the fact that Hoskins has demanded more transparency from the college. Initially the college would not reveal to Boyle how many clinics failed inspections, how many passed, and how many passed with conditions.
This is preposterous. The college’s responsibility is to conduct inspections and protect the health of Ontarians in doing so. The fact that its fail and conditional pass rates are so high, and that it is not taking into consideration how important transparency is to protecting patient health, are reasons enough to create a new body that will take the job of protecting patient health more seriously.
How many more patients need to get sick before the minister takes away the college’s responsibility for inspections?