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Ontario health organizations want to put an end to medical tourism

WATCH: A coalition of healthcare professionals said Wednesday morning that it wants to put an end to medical tourism in Ontario to return Ontario residents and those who deserve treatment to the front of the line, reducing hospital wait times.

TORONTO – A coalition of provincial health organizations wants the Ontario government to put a ban on medical tourism.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, the Association of Ontario Midwives, and the Association of Ontario Health Centres have joined forces on a push for the ban, the group announced Wednesday during a press conference at Queen’s park.

The coalition says hospitals should not be creating for-profit programs to attract international patients on a pay-for-treatment basis.

“No one should be able to jump to the front of the queue ahead of people with real medical needs, no matter where they come from and no matter how much money they have,” said Dr. Ryan Meili, Vice-Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, in a media release.

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The group argues medical tourism will ultimately redirect resources away from Ontario patients to those from abroad.

But Health Minister Eric Hoskins says the opposite is true; medical tourists generate up to an estimated $13 million a year in revenue he said.

WATCH: Health minister Eric Hoskins doesn’t want to jump to conclusions as he sees some benefit to medical tourism

Public money can’t be used for these tourists, he said, and thus all the revenue is reinvested back into the system and can open up hospital beds and hire staff that otherwise wouldn’t be funded.

In September, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario filed a freedom of information request with the Ministry of Health and other branches of government for records regarding so-called medical tourism going back five years.

It says two Toronto hospital groups already let non-Canadians pay for medical treatment.

“Health care is a public good, not a business venture,” said Adrianna Tetley, CEO of the Association of Ontario Health Centres.

The nurses’ group say more needs to be known about what it calls an “attack on Medicare” that it says sees money rather than patient need determine who gets help.

“We have raised this issue with Premier Kathleen Wynne and with Deb Matthews and Eric Hoskins numerous times, and although they are aware of our concerns, they are not doing enough to stop this practice in its tracks,” said Doris Grinspun, RNAO’s Chief Executive Officer.

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With a file from The Canadian Press