NDP’s Singh calls for cash-for-surgery loophole to be closed by amending Canada Health Act « Canada’s NDP

February 10, 2023 at 4:00 am  Federal, Politics

CBC investigation lays out how Canadians are being charged tens of thousands of dollars to jump the queue

QUEBEC CITY — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to keep his promise and close the loophole in the Canada Health Act that’s led to dozens of for-profit clinics charging cash for surgeries, and draining doctors and nurses out of hospital operating rooms so wait times grow for everyone.

An in-depth piece from CBC News released Friday lays out how companies owned by a private equity fund are opening a growing number of for-profit, cash-for-access clinics all over the country. The loophole allows people to pay to jump the queue, as long as their surgery is performed in another province where they’re not “insured” under the current interpretation of the Act.

“Everyone should get the surgery they need as soon as they need it, not just when they can afford it,” said Singh. “But right now, people are waiting in horrible pain for surgeries — losing their quality of life and taking painkillers to get through the day. The thousands of Canadian surgeons, nurses and care aides that have been poached by cash-for-surgery clinics could be shortening wait times for all — but instead, they’ve been poached by cash-for-surgery clinics.

“In 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to stop all billing for health care by amending the Canada Health Act — then he did the opposite. He flip-flopped. Now he’s calling for-profit surgery ‘innovation.’ For everyone who is waiting longer, this isn’t innovation — it’s American-style two-tier health care, and it’s making the painful waits much longer for the vast majority of Canadians.”

In 2021, the Liberal platform promised to “Strengthen federal powers under the Canada Health Act… to deduct health transfers from provinces who enable extra billing for publicly insured services, in order to protect the integrity of our universal public health care system.” The platform went on to say that “[Former Conservative leader] Erin O’Toole says he wants to bring ‘innovation’ to this system by allowing those with money to access their own system of for-profit, private care. A two-tier system would worsen access and health outcomes for all of us. Liberals believe that innovation in health care comes not from letting wealthy people cut the line, but by improving and expanding our public health care system.”

“Justin Trudeau’s flip-flop is enabling queue-jumping, and it’s exploiting people’s pain by having them pay thousands of dollars to end their suffering. It’s wrong, and I want the Canada Health Act amended now to close this loophole,” said Singh. “People should not be forced to wait longer if their wallet is smaller.”

The corporation at the heart of the CBC investigation is Canadian Surgery Solutions, owned by Clearpoint, which is owned by Kensington Private Equity Fund. In January 2023, the company announced an expansion, growing to 53 operating rooms across the country.

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