For weeks now, Ontario's Minister of Health, Deb Matthews, has been trading barbs with federal Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, over whether or not she should intervene in Health Canada's decision to approve the generic version of the painkiller oxycodone. As this debate plays out and the attention starts to focus on the intergovernmental conflict instead of the important public health debate, we must not lose sight of three simple facts.
This past week, a small family-owned medical facility just outside Toronto, the Shouldice Hospital, catapulted to the centre of the public-private debate in Canadian health care. Centric Health -- a publicly traded company under American control -- has placed a bid to acquire Shouldice for over 14-million dollars. Frustration with our current health system and the visceral reaction to contract it out is understandable. But for-profit hospital and provider arrangements are accountable first to their shareholders, second to patients and taxpayers.
The Ontario government has promised to reduce its $16-billion deficit substantially over the next few years, and tackling health-care cost growth has to be part of the solution.In response, the Canadian Medical Association has speculated that doctors may move to jurisdictions where physician earnings are on the rise, and that wait times in Ontario may increase as a result of the cuts.
Some evidence suggests that about one-third of the tests doctors order are unnecessary -- and doctors make a pretty penny on those tests. Recently the Ontario government announced that it is reducing OHIP fees by 50 per cent in situations where self-referral has occurred. The government has good reason to be interested in this issue, but cutting fees for self-referral isn't the answer.