Private clinics may be permitted to go beyond day surgery to multi-day patient stays.

Overnight stays would create ‘private hospitals’: NDP

Private surgical clinics may be hired for more than just day surgery if one proposed reform is adopted by the province

The province may let contracted private clinics keep patients overnight for as long as three days so they can take on more complex surgeries than the day procedures they’ve so far been permitted to perform.

That possibility is mentioned in a health ministry discussion paper of potential surgical reforms that’s gone out for stakeholder comment.

“Improved access to surgical services may include performing select surgical procedures which have length of stay up to three days, in private surgery centres using public funds,” the paper says, adding the change would require amending the Hospital Act.

RELATED:B.C. injects $10 million to cut surgery wait times

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake announced an extra $10 million Monday to perform more day surgeries this summer – some through private clinics using public funds – in order to cut wait times.

But NDP health critic Judy Darcy said letting private surgery clinics go beyond day surgery to multi-day stays would be tantamount to turning them into full-fledged “private hospitals.”

Private surgery clinics so far perform barely one per cent of government-funded procedures in B.C. when public operating rooms aren’t available.

Longer patient stays would open the door to many more surgeries flowing to private facilities, Darcy said, adding critical staff may follow, further reducing capacity in public hospitals.

“Health professionals are in short supply – anaethesiologists, specialty nurses – and if we drain them out of the public system into the private system we effectively become captive to private for-profit clinics,” Darcy said.

She called the proposal a “game changer” that has been quietly advanced under the guise of a short-term “band-aid” to cut waits.

“They ought to be doing the innovation and the strategic investment to use our public system to the maximum.”

Fraser Health does not initially foresee hiring private clinics to supply the extra 500 surgeries it plans over the summer – it will open more of its own closed operating rooms.

But the Vancouver Island and and Vancouver Coastal health authorities have indicated they expect to make some extra use of private surgeons.

Health Minister Terry Lake was unavailable for an interview.

The ministry instead issued a statement defending extended private clinic stays as a successful method of handling more hernia surgeries in Toronto.

“This is just one option that is on the table for consideration,” it said. “Not all of these will be implemented.”

The policy paper indicates the main reason that about one in six hospital operating rooms are closed at any time is lack of funding, while staff shortages and lack of demand are also responsible in some cases.

The ministry says it’s working to increase training for specialist nurses and support recruitment and retention of key specialists, including anaethesiologists.

Doctors of B.C. president Dr. Bill Cavers said health watchdogs are right to be wary of the potential to drain staff from the public system, but said the association believes some increased use of private surgery clinics “can be a good idea” as long as it’s publicly administered and funded, and quality and safety standards are upheld.

Demand on hospitals can vary due to flu season or a backlog of patients waiting for a particular procedure, he said.

“We feel that utilizing different avenues of access to care can improve the overall efficiency of the  system,” Cavers said. “We have surgeons right now who can’t get enough operating room time.”

He said he doesn’t foresee large numbers of clinics opening to the extent that they might cause problems for the public system.

Just Posted

Langley junior curling champs defend title in Quebec

Defeat of their cousin’s team has secured Tardi brothers and the rest of the team in today’s finals.

Windstorm whallops Surrey

Environment Canada lifts wind warning but not before storms hits region hard

UPDATE: Elderly woman found wandering in Surrey reunited with family

Public asked to help identify South Asian woman who is not able to communicate with police

ZYTARUK: Only the truth, and nothing but

Lying hurts all of us. You, me, them. All of us.

UPDATE: Wind warning has ended for Metro Vancouver

More than 34,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark on Sunday morning in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

VIDEO: Dramatic video shows return of rescued B.C. snowboarders

Two snowboarders were rescued near Rossland, B.C. on Sunday after being lost overnight.

Tom Brady leads Patriots back to Super Bowl, top Jaguars 24-20

New England to face winner of Sunday night’s game between Minnesota and Philadelphia on Feb. 4

Coquihalla drivers prepare for snow

Wintry conditions persist, with snow warnings for Coquihalla

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants blanked by Portland Winterhawks

Saturday’s 2-0 setback marks first regulation loss for G-Men in 10 games

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

Most Read