I am very alarmed that VIHA is contemplating the privatization of some service delivery (i.e. hospital housekeeping) in our new hospital.
My primary concern is that the corporate agenda will ensure profits will be more important than healthcare standards and patients’ needs. Our healthcare system is not there (and has never been) to generate profit. The goal is, and should always be, to take care of patients in an efficient, caring manner. Private companies will never be satisfied with a break-even scenario (as the public healthcare system is designed to be). Profit, after all, is the sole purpose and reason for their existence.
Another concern that I have is about the incorrect argument that we cannot afford the current system, and that privatization would be more cost effective. Although it is true that via privatization qualified personnel would face significant job losses and/or wage decreases, this does not equal money saved for tax payers. In fact, as the corporate model demonstrates again and again, the difference in wages would go towards the six-digit salaries and bonuses of CEOs of transnational companies and their shareholders instead of towards improving our healthcare.
The instability of private incorporated companies is an additional worry that I hope the Regional District will consider. These companies can cease to exist at any time, leaving the hospital scrambling to keep services going.
An example of this can be seen with the Port Mann Bridge project in Vancouver, where a P3’s consortium went bankrupt in mid-construction, and it was the taxpayers who ended up with the bill.
Another example of this is the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. They once had a fine cafeteria, where even people from the neighborhood would visit to purchase good, nutritious meals. It was replaced with a private company under the Compass Group Canada name. The Hospital was very unhappy about the services Compass provided, and when the contract came up for renewal, VIHA hired another company named Marquise which was soon bought out by Compass, and VIHA could do nothing about it.
On a personal note, a family health crisis brought me to both the Nanaimo General Hospital Emergency department and the Campbell River Emergency department two weeks ago. The difference in the standard of cleanliness in the two facilities was striking and upsetting. The floors of the Nanaimo Emergency department were filthy, compared to the Campbell River Emergency department, which was so much cleaner. I discovered afterwards that the housekeeping services in Nanaimo General Hospital are provided by a private company via the Compass Group Canada.
It is important to note that due to unsatisfactory services, VIHA is opting out of its contract with Compass and seeking new Hospital Housekeeping and Cleaning Services. Please keep in mind that VIHA (BC taxpayers), pay huge sums of money for negotiating every new contract with private companies, (i.e. the new P3 hospital in Abbotsford faced a total cost of $24.3 million in lawyer fees alone for all the negotiations with private companies).
All of the money used for negotiations is taken out of our healthcare dollars and should ideally be used for healthcare instead. In the case of the Nanaimo Regional Hospital, the cost of negotiating with a new housekeeping company will not be nearly as high, but high never the less.
These are just few examples of the problems that privatization of our hospital will create. The list can go on. I appeal to you, the elected officials, that you seriously consider all the issues involved in VIHA’s attempt to privatize services in the new Campbell River Regional Hospital. Your decision today will affect our generations to come… your children and grandchildren.
Healthcare is not about profit. Our tax dollars pay for it and our tax dollars shouldn’t be a source of income for private companies. When we (or our loved ones) are faced with an illness and need hospital care, cleanliness and nutritious meals are corners that should never be cut for corporate gain.