September 16, 2002
Rallies to stop the corporate takeover of our hospitals
when? Saturday October 19, 2002 as part of the country-wide "Call to Care"
where? Ottawa and Brampton
what time?12 noon
why? These two
sites are the planned locations for the first two for-profit hospitals in
Ontario. So far, only the plans have been announced by the provincial
conservative government. No deals are signed yet. We have several months to stop
the privatization of our hospital system-- to ensure that Ottawa's and
Brampton's hospitals stay in public non-profit control. And in this election
year, we have our best opportunity to pressure politicians to stop the handover
of our hospitals to for-profit corporations. Join us in building the visible
opposition that will compel Ontarians and our governments to take notice and
keep our hospitals public.
what do I need to know right now? Events in the two cities include a march in Brampton and car cavalcade in Ottawa, and rallies in each city followed by People Over Profit Picnics. Plan to be at the event nearest you in good time for actions to start at 12 noon. We will send out the locations of the gathering points as soon as possible. Events will conclude around 3:30 pm.
if you are organizing a bus/car pool/vans from your community:please let us know by phoning us at 416-441-2502 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please leave your phone, fax and email information with us.
Ontario Health Coalition, 15
Gervais Drive, Suite 305, Toronto, ON
M3C 1Y8 www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca phone: 416-441-2502
fax: 416-441-4073 email: email@example.com
The hospitals in Brampton and Ottawa are being billed as "Public Private Partnerships" or P3s. But these are not "partnerships" that anyone with foresight would want to get into. Unless, of course you are a private developer, a for-profit health corporation, or their spokespeople in government....
This article was first
printed in the Winnepeg Free Press:
Warning: The P3s are coming!
By Murray Dobbin
I am a definite outsider when it comes to corporations, so I don't often get to enter the corporate culture and observe its special little rituals.
But in May, I got the opportunity at a conference of the Canadian Council on Public-Private Partnerships (C2P3), the front-group for some of the world's largest corporations who try to make people feel good about privatizing every precious public service we have.
The folks at C2P3 swept into
Vancouver in a mood that can only be described as giddy anticipation. They could
just taste the profits soon to be made with the new Gordon Campbell
anti-government, eager to turn over public services to the private sector. The
Premier's Deputy Minister Ken Dobell had already declared that "the choice
is now between either not getting the project done at all or delivering it through a P3."
The conference was a two-day cheerleading session for P3s, and no one was allowed to say a negative word about these corporate giveaways. Journalists at the event were not allowed to ask questions during the sessions - we were reduced to trying to find presenters in the halls amongst the paid-up delegates munching their canapes at the breaks.
There were times when I felt I was at a meeting of the Shriners or some other secret society. The P3 priesthood even makes up its own language, with several promoters talking about the need for the "incentivization" of businesses to get involved, and how to "incent" business and government into embracing P3s.
I, however, remained
unincented. I would have liked to ask some questions of the privateers about
their actual record. Or, as they liked to say at the conference, their
"outputs". I would have especially liked to ask them about companies repeatedly
defrauding governments, like dozens of American health-services corporations.
health-industry players now have their eye on Canadian medicare -- there was a whole session on health care.)
In the mid-1990s,
health-care fraud by U.S. corporate giants has been estimated as high as $100
billion annually. Washington actually started catching up with some of these
crooks by 1994 -- the year that National Medical Enterprises paid a then-record
$379 million in fines and restitution for fraud in psychiatric services. In
1997, the mega-giant Tenet Healthcare Corp. agreed to pay $100 million to settle
claims that patients were kept
in psychiatric hospitals simply to maximize insurance payments. In 1999 alone, the U.S. Justice Department recovered $840 million stolen from the taxpayers through health-care fraud.
Columbia/HCA Health Corp., America's largest hospital company, agreed to pay $745 million to settle civil fraud charges. In 2001, Tap Pharmaceuticals agreed to pay $875 million, including a $290-million criminal fine. Schering-Plough Corp. will pay the U.S. Food and Drug Administration $500 million.
Lest you think that all that
is involved here is a few hundred billion in tax dollars, think again. People
die as a result of these corporate practices. American nursing-home advocate Ila
Swan, testifying before the Senate Committee on Aging, stated: "I am still
aghast at collecting 26,000 death certificates of nursing-home residents,
the causes of death from starvation, dehydration, fecal impactions, bedsores and urinary tract infections."
Are all for-profit contractors providing public services engaged in fraud? Of course not. But you don't need to commit outright fraud to rip off the public. If the private-sector trashing of medicare in the U.S. doesn't convince you to keep these vultures away from your public services then we can turn to our own backyard and look at what P3s have to offer public education.
In 1994, Nova Scotia committed itself to the most extensive experiment in P3 schools anywhere in Canada. Called "leaseback" arrangements, they are common in the U.S. The government leases the schools from a contractor and then agrees to buy the school (or hospital, or prison) outright at the end of 20 to 35 years. In Nova Scotia, the government contracted the construction of 30 P3 schools to a local consortium. Within six years, there were so many scandals and improprieties the whole grand experiment was causing a public uproar. The government cancelled all future P3 construction. But by then, the 30 schools -- with contracts as long as 35 years -- were slated to cost the public $32 million more than if they had been built in the traditional manner.
It isn't just the money. It
turned out that corporations, not local preferences, determined where new
schools would be built, usually on land already owned by a member of the
consortium. And the consortium preferred to locate in upper-income subdivisions
with lower land costs, rather than in urban cores where the schools were
You might think that if you
were leasing the school you wouldn't have to worry about repairs. Think again.
The taxpayer is responsible for the operating costs, capital improvements and
repairs, and technology upgrading. The private owners were assured of receiving
89 per cent of their costs through leasing charges, and will still own the
building and the land when the lease is up. Then the government has to buy the
school whether or not it
is still needed.
Not sweet enough for you?
Still need a little incentivization? Why not? The contract exempts the owners
and the builders from any legal or financial liability for shoddy school
construction, or even faulty wiring and plumbing. This was an enormous incentive
for using cheap labour and low-quality materials. And, of course, since the
corporation owns the schools, it has the right to use them and all their technology for profitable activities after
hours, on weekends and during the summer.
The C2P3 conference hosts
didn't mention the Nova Scotia fiasco, which is a little strange given that it
presented the first Halifax P3 school with its first prize in the
"infrastructure" category in 1998. Students and staff in that school were still
drinking bottled water in 2001, 12 months after arsenic was found in the
school's well water. A
water-filtration system had been installed, but it wasn't being used because the school board and the school's corporate owner couldn't agree on who was responsible for providing students with clean water.
I suppose we should give
C2P3 a break. It's hard to find a corporation today that isn't fiddling the
books and/or stiffing the public. Case in point -- Accenture (formerly Andersen
Consulting of Enron infamy) is right there at the top of the list of "sponsor
members" in C2P3's welcoming letter to conference delegates. Among other things,
Accenture is known in Ontario for its outrageous cost overruns (from $70 million to $180 million) in its welfare
privatization scheme. They paid some project managers $575 an hour.
If Canadians actually buy
the argument about P3s providing better and cheaper public services it will only
be after a prolonged period of intensive stupidification. But governments are
already there. It doesn't seem to matter how many P3 disasters -- trains in
Britain, water in Latin America, prisons and schools in the U.S. -- rain down on
unsuspecting public. It's a matter of faith, not reason.
Accenture has just been
handed several divisions of B.C. Hydro to run. Pray for the B.C. taxpayer.