Halifax – What if there was a proven way to reduce wait times for certain important surgical procedures?  What if it was being ignored by health care stakeholders?

In this background paper, Private Supply, Public Benefit: Reduce wait times with specialty hospitals, the Canadian Health Care Consensus Group (CHCCG) examines the reluctance of health care authorities to acknowledge that the private supply of health care in a publicly funded system works.

 “For all the claims that the self-styled defenders of Medicare make about the damage private supply of care would do to Canada’s health care system, the international evidence is that expanded private supply would only benefit the system.”

The paper provides examples of cases in Canada and outside where private specialty hospitals helped reduce waiting times for patients in a publicly-funded system.

“Back at the end of 2005 it was announced that a pilot project in Alberta had achieved significant reductions in wait times for hip and knee replacement surgery,” explains Private Supply, Public Benefit. “Preliminary reports on the pilot project suggested a reduction from 47 weeks to 5 weeks between first orthopaedic consult and surgery…. Less often mentioned in those stories was the fact that part of the reason the Alberta project was a success was that it contracted many of those joint replacement operations to a private, for-profit  clinic, Calgary’s Health Resource Centre (HRC).”

Another argument used against private supply of health care is that it is of inferior quality, which this background paper debunks.

“The other big complaint about specialty hospitals deals with the quality of the care they provide.  At first, the argument was that they would provide lower quality medical care than community hospitals, but none of the reports on these hospitals support that result. More recently, critics of specialty hospitals have fallen back on complaining that the care they provide is of no higher quality than that provided by community hospitals.  This is an unusual criticism, to say the least – specialty hospitals are to be rejected because their care is of the same quality as that provided by existing hospitals.”

Members of the CHCCG came together to provide a platform for bold, reasoned and practical plans for genuine reform of the health care system and to demonstrate that there is an emerging consensus among reform-minded observers about the direction that real reform must take. The CHCCG, coordinated by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), includes medical practitioners, former health ministers, past presidents of the Canadian Medical Association and provincial medical and hospital associations, academics, and health care policy experts, all of whom are signatories to the group’s Statement of Principles.

Private Supply, Public Benefit  is one of a series of background papers prepared for the CHCCG, which are intended to contribute to that new debate. These papers do not represent official positions of the Consensus Group, and are not themselves consensus documents, but rather are intended to act as starting points for debate, some of which will occur on the Consensus Group’s website (www.consensusgroup.ca) The first few papers will deal with aspects of the “public” versus “private” debate, while later ones will consider other issues which were raised in the Consensus Group’s Statement of Principles.

The Canadian Health Care Consensus Group website can be viewed at: www.consensusgroup.ca .


For more information, contact:
Charles Cirtwill, AIMS (acting) President
Barbara Pike, AIMS Director of Communications
902-429-1143 ext. 227 / 902-452-1172