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Ontario looking to ban or further restrict medical tourism: source

WATCH: One Toronto hospital has pulled in millions on foreign patients having surgeries in operating rooms and occupying hospital beds. And several other hospitals across Ontario are doing it too. Crystal Goomansingh reports.

TORONTO – The Ontario government is reviewing the guidelines regulating medical tourism, but a source tells Global News it’s likely to ban or restrict formalized international patient programs and medical tourism in the province.

Minister of Health Eric Hoskins wouldn’t say whether any changes were being considered or when the announcement will take place but told reporters at Queen’s Park Monday he will be making an announcement shortly.

“I’ve had the ministry reviewing the issue closely, starting with gathering detailed information about which hospitals are participating and I know that hospitals are following the principles that were put to them by the ministry in 2012 and by myself this summer,” Hoskins said.

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Hospitals that do take patients from overseas are prohibited from using public funds for the care, and any revenue generated needs to be reinvested into the Ontario healthcare system.

Further, Hoskins said, the treatment of international patients can’t result in Ontario residents waiting longer for care.

The University Health Network told Global News its medical tourism program has treated 174 international patients in Ontario and generated $8.8 million as a result.

Hoskins said in October medical tourism contributes nearly $13 million each year to the Ontario healthcare system.

WATCH: (Oct. 29) Ontario’s Health Minister sees some benefit to medical tourism

But despite those numbers, NDP health critic France Gelinas wants to see the practice banned from Ontario.

“When there is money that comes into our healthcare system that does not have accountability and oversight, it’s always the same thing: a few people, there will be a trickle of money going to our healthcare system,” she said.

“But the damage that will be done to our healthcare system will be tremendous.”

She also suggested medical tourism is forcing Ontarians to wait longer.

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“There are wait lists for every single procedure that are presently being advertised on the open market in the international tourism market,” she said.

“Those are Ontarians who live here, who deserve care, who should be having access to that care.”

The pending announcement comes just a few weeks after a coalition of provincial health organization called on the province to ban medical tourism.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, the Association of Ontario Midwives, and the Association of Ontario Health Centres called on the Ontario government in October to ban the practice, saying it would ultimately divert resources from Ontarians.

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