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July 9

Letter to the Whig Standard

 

Dear Editors,

 

Health Minister Tony Clement’s letter in your July 8 edition contains a key piece of information that can most charitably be described as purposively misleading; it is arguably an outright lie.

 

He states that for-profit MRI services will be delivered at 36% of the cost of OHIP funded MRIs.  I assume this is mistake and Mr. Clement meant to say hospital MRIs, since he has repeated told us that the for-profit clinics will deliver OHIP funded MRIs.  Regardless, he is claiming that the for-profit clinics will be cheaper than hospitals.

 

An essential starting point for this comparison would be to know how much an MRI costs in the public system.  The Ontario Health Coalition has tried to get this figure from the Ministry of Health.  Numerous searches have lead us to the conclusion that the government does not know how much an MRI costs in an hospital.  In fact, they do not even know exactly how many MRIs are done in Ontario.

 

Without this basic information, a lack of information that was recently confirmed in a report from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Studies at Sunnybrook Hospital, and is common across Canada, it is impossible to make any definitive statement on relative costs.

 

But pubic information, as limited as it is, clearly shows that that for-profit MRIs costing less is a conservative fantasy.

 

The Ontario government has historically paid hospitals $800,000 per year for 40 hours of MRI services.  The for-profit MRIs will be paid $600,000 to $700,000 for 40 hours of service.

 

The difficulty with this comparison is it does not tell you how many and what type of MRIs are done in that 40 hours.

 

At a Sept. 10, 20902, Public Estimates Committee hearing at Queen’s Park, Allison Stuart, a senior Ministry of Health official, said that many hospitals provided more than 40 hours of services for the 800,00 dollars.  Health Minister Clement was in attendance at that meeting.

 

Available estimates from OHIP show that the average hospital provided about 9,000 MRIs for their $800,000 payment.  While the government will not release the figures it seems likely that the for-profit MRIs will be providing 2,500 to 3,000 MRIs for $6-700,000.

 

Using these available figures, it is clear that public hospitals would be twice as cheap as the for-profit clinics.

 

Due to the sever lack of accountability in MRI statistics, I would not say that this figure is correct.  It is only important to show that the governments figure is a work of fiction, purposively misleading and possibly an outright lie.

 

It is highly unlikely that for-profit MRIs cost less.  It is very probably that they cost the same or more than providing MRIs in public facilities.  In that case, for-profit clinics are in fact depriving some people of MRIs, that is decreasing accessibility, because they are inefficient and a waste of money.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Ross Sutherland.

Chair of the Kingston Health Coalition