THE controversial Maples Surgical Centre could become a free training facility for Red River College students studying to be technologists, owner Dr. Mark Godley said yesterday.
Speaking at a luncheon organized by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Godley responded to criticism that he was poaching staff from the public health- care system by noting Manitoba’s public health system has lured staff away from his former home of South Africa.
(For a number of years, Manitoba has been recruiting doctors from South Africa. The province used to give favoured status to these doctors, allowing them a licence to practice independently after writing an exam. The province ended that practice in 2003.)
The dispute between the province and Godley over the Maples heated up in November when the clinic announced it had purchased an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine and would be selling scans for $695 each to anyone willing to pay.
Both of the technologists running the MRI at Maples left jobs at Health Sciences Centre to work at Maples, requiring HSC to seriously cut back its own MRI operations because of a staffing shortage. At the time, Health Minister Tim Sale predicted this “poaching” of health-care workers was going to happen, and said it’s why the private sector is not the answer to cutting waiting lists.
Yesterday, Godley said that besides opening his facility up to students, health-care workers in the public system would like the extra money that would come with working in their off-time at the Maples.
And he is setting up a high-speed Internet connection so MRI scans can be read by Vancouver radiologists who wouldn’t even need to step foot in this province.
“In actual fact, we have brought more resources,” Godley argued.
“As we move along, we will start bringing anesthesiologists, we will start bringing technology to this province that is not being used today or limited in a very dramatic manner. Hopefully we will be part of the solution, which is the retraining and retention of health-care workers to this province.”
At first, Sale had threatened to fine the clinic for offering MRIs, saying that violated the Canada Health Act. Godley countered he would challenge any fine in court, arguing it is against the Charter of Rights to deny patients timely access to health care.
Last week, Manitoba Health outlined eight principles it expects the Maples clinic to meet if it wants provincial health business. Among the requirements would be that Maples not poach staff from the public system and that it not be in violation of the Canada Health Act.