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Potential for N.S. health-care privatization ‘a slippery slope,’ advocacy group says

Click to play video: 'N.S. group says private healthcare to have ‘dire’ impacts on public system'
N.S. group says private healthcare to have ‘dire’ impacts on public system
WATCH: There are concerns from Nova Scotia health-care advocates and opposition leaders after the province revealed they're considering several private health-care options. Premier Tim Houston says private options could cut down on surgical backlogs and emergency wait times, but as Graeme Benjamin reports, those opposed feel privatization could have long-term impacts on the public system – Aug 25, 2022

A Nova Scotia health-care advocacy group says the provincial government should not consider private options as a way to alleviate surgical backlogs, emergency room wait times and labour shortages that are currently plaguing the province.

“It’s definitely a slippery slope into our public system,” said Alexandra Rose, co-ordinator of the Nova Scotia Health Coalition.

“Private surgery clinics, those staff don’t come out of nowhere. They’re leaving the public system to go private, which only makes the staffing crisis that we’re facing in Nova Scotia so much worse.”

This comes after Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said his government is considering private health-care options that would be integrated within the public system.

Read more: Private health options in Nova Scotia would strengthen public system: premier

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“The main goal has to be getting people access to the care that they need, and we’ll mobilize every ounce of resource that we can muster to get people the care that they need,” Premier Tim Houston told reporters after a cabinet meeting Wednesday.

“There won’t be a time under my tenure as premier where Nova Scotians need to use anything except their MSI card to pay for their health care.”

But Rose worries that won’t be the case, as there’s potential additional private clinics would expand if others are finding success.

“If a bunch of other people see and they think that it works, that’s still just more private clinics opening up, resulting in more people leaving the public system, whether it be doctors, nurses – any health-care staff,” she said.

Click to play video: 'N.B. premier speaks about expansion of private health-care service'
N.B. premier speaks about expansion of private health-care service

Rose also highlights how the public-private model hasn’t worked in the past, such as in Ontario when the province’s auditor general found hospitals paid higher than reasonable rates to private contractors.

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“There is no short-term private solution to our public system,” she said.

Houston noted that the province has been using Scotia Surgery Inc. — a private clinic in the Halifax area — since 2008 to perform elective day surgeries.

“It’s always been there to provide care to Nova Scotians in the same order,” he said. “There’s no favoritism as to who gets to go there and people have went there and got surgeries and used their MSI card to pay for that.”

Read more: Ontario, Maritimes premiers meet to talk health care but offer no details, solutions

But the Opposition say privatization of the health-care system will create several long-term concerns.

“I think you’re creating a very big risk,” said Liberal Leader Zach Churchill. “We’ve got a labour shortage in health care right now; you create a parallel private health-care system, I think that will siphon people out of the public health-care system.”

“Obviously when we can’t access health care, when our loved ones can’t access health care, we’re going to do whatever we can,” said Nova Scotia NDP Leader Claudia Chender. “For some of us, that could be using our credit card. For others, that’s not possible.”

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