Private hospitals cost more to build

You’ve probably seen the photo-ops: McGuinty government politicians in hard hats, holding shovels, and wearing big smiles as they break ground on private for-profit hospitals.
But as the people of North Bay have found out, the reality is that behind the sales job, there is a lot the McGuinty government is keeping secret—like the fact the price tag for these private hospitals is going up. Way up.
When plans first were announced for a new regional health centre in North Bay, the price was set at $219 million.
Health minister George Smitherman then announced the project would proceed as a private for-profit hospital, and when negotiations were done, the price had ballooned to $551 million.
At the time, Smitherman said that was the all-in cost. It supposedly included construction, maintenance, repairs, and financing.
This week, thanks to a leaked memo, the people of North Bay learned the true cost of their private hospital—$1 billion (quadruple the original stated price). And that has people in North Bay fuming.
The North Bay Nugget summed it up well when it wrote: “The province hasn’t been straightforward with taxpayers about the true cost of the North Bay Regional Health Centre. . . . It was evasive with the numbers.”
Private health supporters hate to admit it but private for-profit hospitals cost more to build.
Basically, a private for-profit hospital works like this. The government gives a private company public money to build a hospital. Then that private company leases the hospital to the government.
Somehow this is supposed to save the people of Ontario money and provide the private company with a significant profit. But projects in Brampton and Ottawa, and now North Bay, show they always cost more.
Working families pay for these higher costs through their taxes. They also pay in another way—a decline in health care services.
When you divert so much health care money to private profit, when you divert that money away from hiring health professionals, buying equipment, and paying for health procedures, patient care always suffers.
The most troubling thing for today’s families is this: What’s happening in North Bay is just the tip of the iceberg. In community after community across Ontario, the McGuinty government is turning hospitals that should be public into private for-profit ones.
Goodness knows how much these projects—and all the secret costs the premier refuses to make public—will strip away from health care for people?
When it comes to standing up for public health care, New Democrats are crystal clear. If you have $10 for health care, $10 should go to health care—not $5 to health care and $5 to private profits.
Private for-profit hospitals are the lemons of the health care system.
Let’s toss this idea onto the scrap heap of history and build publicly-funded, publicly-financed, publicly-accountable hospitals for communities that need them without delay.

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