Private clinics’ bigger role in Ontario won’t affect Nunavut: Main
The health secretary says GN will continue to provide services it currently offers through an agreement with its southern counterpart
Ontario’s plan to fund private clinics to provide public health services should not interfere with the specialized care Nunavummiut receives in that province, says Nunavut Minister of Health John Main.
The Ontario government announced Jan. 16 that it will expand and fund some services offered at private medical clinics to help reduce the backlog of hospital surgeries in the province.
The phased plan sees private clinics offering thousands more cataract surgeries, MRI and CT scans, and hip and knee replacements. The government intends to provide all services in private clinics by 2024 and return hospital surgery waiting times to pre-COVID-19 levels in a year.
Services augmented by the private clinics will be covered by Ontario residents’ provincial health insurance plan, said Hannah Jensen, a spokeswoman for Ontario Minister of Health Sylvia Jones.
Ontario’s plan comes as Canada’s prime ministers, including Nunavut Prime Minister PJ Akeeagok, are due to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on February 7 to begin talks aimed at increasing the province’s state health coverage.
Some health experts like Dr. Nancy Whitmore, registrar and chief executive officer of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, has criticized the Ontario government’s plan to use more private clinics.
Whitmore said her organization believes the move will exacerbate public health staffing shortages as professionals leave for jobs at private clinics.
In an interview with Nunatsiaq News, Main said that notwithstanding any privatization measures Ontario takes, the Nunavut government will continue to provide the insured services it currently provides to Nunavummiut who is receiving medical treatment in that province.
“It shouldn’t matter whether the entity conducting the procedures is public or private,” he said.
He said the job market for health professionals is competitive across Canada and Nunavut is looking at ways to make the area more attractive to these professionals.
The Ontario government did not consult Main on the province’s new health plan, he said.
However, because Nunavut relies on many services from Ontario, Main said his government will communicate with Ontario as needed.
“If we felt we had something to share with them, we wouldn’t hesitate to raise those concerns,” he said.
While Main said his government values the health services offered by its southern partners, the area is trying to establish more important health services in Nunavut.
“We’re always looking for ways to do more here,” he said.
A spokesman for Tungasuvvingat Inuit, a nonprofit organization that provides municipal support services to Ontario’s Inuit, declined to comment on the impact of Ontario’s health care changes on Inuit living in the province.
Larga Baffin, a boarding school for people traveling to Ottawa for medical procedures from the Qikiqtani area, was also contacted, but a spokesman was not available for comment.