NewsOntario Government Unveils Next Steps in Expanding Private Clinics

Ontario Government Unveils Next Steps in Expanding Private Clinics

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A year after revealing plans to enhance the role of for-profit and private clinics in Ontario’s healthcare system, the Ford government is still refining the regulatory framework for this transformative initiative. Health Minister Sylvia Jones recently outlined the upcoming steps in this process, focusing on finalizing the accreditation and inspection procedures for private facilities set to offer taxpayer-funded services.

Jones emphasized the government’s commitment to reducing surgery wait times, signaling a departure from the existing status quo. Beginning this spring, the province will embark on an expansion of licensed diagnostic and surgery centers, offering services such as MRI and CT scans, endoscopies, and orthopedic surgeries.

As part of these changes, Accreditation Canada will be designated as the inspection body for private and for-profit clinics. The province, referring to these facilities as community clinics, currently acknowledges over 900 such spaces, with more anticipated to join the pipeline.

While the Ford government had announced these healthcare changes a year ago, it is now poised to evaluate and issue new licenses for private clinics. In 2023, only four licenses were granted for three cataract centers under the new rules. The broader call for new licenses is set to begin in the spring, following extensive consultations with healthcare sector partners, regulatory colleges, and patients and families.

As part of the implementation, the province plans to integrate wait time data between public hospitals and private clinics, aiming to demonstrate the impact of the new facilities on surgery backlog reduction and their integration into the broader healthcare system.

However, the Ontario NDP, the official Opposition, expressed dissatisfaction with the announced changes, asserting that the government is prioritizing profit over addressing the healthcare crisis. Ontario Liberal Health Critic Adil Shamji labeled the announcement as “damage control,” criticizing the government’s reliance on private health facilities.

The changes fall under Bill 60, introduced by the Ford government to address waiting times and reshape healthcare services delivery. The legislation aims to increase the number of cataract surgeries, diagnostic imaging, and testing operations in private clinics, with a long-term vision of establishing a new system for hip and knee replacement surgeries.

As the province grapples with surgery backlogs, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government stated that actions taken under its “Your Health, Ontario” initiative have reduced surgical wait-list backlogs and eliminated the wait-list for cervical cancer screening.

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