P3 concerns expressed about North Island hospitals

About 90 people listened to concerns surrounding the public-private partnership model planned for North Island hospitals.

About 90 people showed up to a Comox Valley town hall meeting to listen to concerns surrounding the public-private partnership (P3) model planned for the North Island Hospitals Project (NIHP).

Citizens for Quality Health Care (CQHC) held the two-hour meeting in the Rotary Room of the Florence Filberg Centre on Thursday evening. Speakers included: Dr. Vanessa Brcic from Canadian Doctors for Medicare, Stephen Elliott-Buckley from the Canadian Union of Public Employees research department and Barb Biley from CQHC.

If the public-private partnership goes ahead as planned, a consortium of companies would be responsible for designing, building, financing and maintaining the new hospitals in the Comox Valley and Campbell River, rather than simply designing and building, as would happen if the project was simply public.

Concerns around cost, privatized services and accountability were some of the main issues discussed.

Biley said the question of P3s in healthcare comes down to an ideological question.

“You want to live in a society where healthcare is a commodity to be exploited by private corporations for profit, or where healthcare is considered a social responsibility that government delivers to the citizens to meet the healthcare needs of the citizens,” Biley said during her presentation.

All three speakers expressed concerns around which services could be privatized if this model is followed.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) was not formally invited to this meeting and did not attend, but it has maintained that all services related to the delivery of healthcare would remain public.

According to VIHA’s Request for Qualifications (RFQ), privatized services could include: general management services; plant services; environmental services; roads and ground maintenance, including structured parking; help desk services; utility management services; housekeeping and linen services (but not laundry); waste management and recycling services; and pest control services.

However, according to NIHP interim project director Grant Hollett, VIHA has not made the final decision on  housekeeping services — a service many people do not want privatized.

“We put it in as a possibility into the RFQ just to see what the marketplace would respond but no final decision has been made yet as whether housekeeping will be placed with project company or kept within VIHA,” Hollett told the Record on Monday. “The plan right now is for food services to stay with VIHA.”

Brcic’s presentation Thursday looked at the bigger picture of Canada’s healthcare system and why privatization in the system is growing. Titled “When the Shift hits the Fan: Health care in crisis and transition,” Brcic’s talk explained the ‘shift’ is a move towards a two-tiered healthcare system, and the ‘fan’ is the federal government “walking away from responsibility on healthcare.”

She also spoke about cost-cutting concerns related to P3 hospitals.

“Inevitable cutting of corners, the quality of actual physical facility,” she said, adding that cutting corners happens when private profit is a motive. “In the U.K. (United Kingdom) they found that roofs were collapsing in patients’ rooms because of corners that were cut during construction.

“Extra services, how many things can you define as a supplementary or excess service that the hospitals then don’t have to take care of and that you then might have to pay for out of pocket?”

During the question-and-comment period, one speaker noted patients had to rent wheelchairs in one public-private hospital she’d been to, and some couldn’t afford to.

Elliott-Buckley spoke specifically on P3 projects, listing disadvantages and pro-P3 touted advantages with his critiques.

He said private companies are less accountable than government, pointing out companies can declare bankruptcy and pull out of projects, leaving the government partner to pick up the pieces.

According to Elliott-Buckley, P3 projects cost more. He pointed out government interest rates are lower than private and taxpayers pay for the project in the end anyways, and he questioned Partnerships BC’s assessment of the financial success of past P3 projects, among other things.

Hollett has repeatedly said the P3 model will give the “greatest value to taxpayers” and will ensure the project is finished “on time and on budget.”

Elliott-Buckley also pointed out transparency could be an issue. VIHA confirmed that while the public would be able to see agreement between the government and the private partners, there would not be access to the private partners’ financial records, in accordance with the law.

Elliott-Buckley noted the public would be unable to see how much profit the consortium is making.

“They deserve their privacy right, but they’re going to get paid 30 years of public dollars, I want to see their books,” said Elliott-Buckley. “It’s my money, I want to see where it’s going and I want to see if they’re making nine per cent or 15 per cent.”

According to CQHC organizers, the town hall meeting in Campbell River on Wednesday also drew a large crowd, and NIHP chief project officer Tom Sparrow was invited to attend but had another meeting that evening.

The Request for Proposals stage is expected to begin by the end of the year, and three of the eight interested consortiums will be asked to submit bids.

The two consortiums not chosen during this part of the process will each receive a $750,000 honorarium for applying, according to Hollett, who added the companies would likely have spent $1 million each during the bidding process.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Just Posted

Dr. Aref Tabarsi, a general pathologist at the North Island Hospital Campbell River Hospital Medical Laboratory, spoke about the issue of service in the region at a meeting in February 2020. Black Press file photo
Comox Strathcona hospital board wants pathology service back

Board supports move for chair, vice-chair to engage with Island Health on issue

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

An activist against human trafficking says the global sex trade is growing fast. Photo by Julian Rivera on Unsplash
Anti-human-trafficking educator appeals to Comox Valley Regional District board

Globalization, unregulated internet, limited law enforcement and a lack of prevention education… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 demo team returning to the Comox Valley for spring training

The team will be in the area from May 16 to 24

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

The only access to 5th Street bridge heading east (toward Lewis Park) is via Anderton Avenue. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Single lane alternating traffic controls on Courtenay bridge now in effect

Single lane alternating traffic on the 5th Street Bridge is now in… Continue reading

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Most Read