Think Tank Praises Clinic; Public, private health-care best

Media Appearances, Healthcare & Welfare, Frontier Centre

A mix of public and private health-service offerings would draw more workers to the system, reduce costs, improve service and increase efficiencies, says a public policy analyst.

“Competition from private providers is no threat to the public system, in fact it will save the system,” said Dennis Owens of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a privately funded think tank with offices in Winnipeg.

From his research, Owens believes a monopolized health care system de-emphasizes service and has a harder time attracting and retaining workers.

He doesn’t understand why NDP Health Minister Tim Sale is opposed to the Maples Surgical Centre providing MRI scans to the public for a fee.

The clinic – owned by Dr. Mark Godley – is poised to begin selling MRI scans to the public for a $695 fee.

“When I hear Tim Sale tell someone he can’t sell a product on the public market, I think of a dictator,” said Owens. “Cuba and North Korea are the only other countries in the world that would say to a guy like Dr. Godley that he can’t provide his service.”

Godley and Tim Sale have battling head-to-head in the media this week ever since the story broke.

Godley is also under fire this week for hiring a former technologist away from Health Sciences Centre.

The health minister said Godley was “poaching” from the public system.

“He’s made our case for us in spades,” said Sale. “He’s using his money to hire staff from our public system.

Sale admits Godley can hire whomever he wants but wants him to acknowledge it’s not for the good of society.

“It is wrong for him to assert that he will help the public,” said Sale. “By him luring a technologist away from the public sector, it will result in few services and longer wait lists.”

The health minister would not comment how he’ll respond once Maples begins selling MRI scans, but is likely to take some form of action against the clinic.

“It’s a deliberate attempt to flout the law and to break Medicare,” said Sale

Godley disagrees with Sale and doesn’t believe he’s breaking any law or doing the public any disservice by selling the service.

“We’re prepared to see this issue right through,” said Godley, adding his private clinic will likely perform an MRI scan on its first patient any day. “We’re preparing to do diagnostic service and provide surgery to people who are suffering.”

Godley also intends to broaden his range of services to hip and knee surgeries and will challenge the province’s ban on allowing a patient to stay overnight at his clinic.

Breaching the overnight ban comes with a $30,000 fine, but Godley has no intention of backing down.

“If it’s for the sake of better care, absolutely we’ll keep the patient overnight,” said Godley. “I’m not afraid at all because I know I’m right. This is too big an issue for Canadians for us not to go the whole road.”