The province of Alberta is officially taking offers from private facilities that want to perform medical surgeries. 

Private-pay services are already in place in Alberta, however, until now they have been limited to minor low-risk surgeries. This move will see more complex surgeries, usually performed in hospitals, contracted out to private firms. While the public will still be footing the bill for the procedures, the expansion of independent providers sets in place a two-tier system of healthcare.

The government putting healthcare into the hands of the private sector is alarming to Sandra Azocar, the executive director of Friends of Medicare. Independent providers need to prioritize profits “always negatively impact patients’ needs,” she says.

The intention behind this move is to reduce wait-times and costs. However, the evidence suggests that increased privatization does not help alleviate wait-times.  In Saskatchewan, the provincial government opened up MRI scans to the private sector. The waitlist has more than doubled since.

Other countries have also tested the idea. In Australia as well, wait-times increased when parallel private-pay systems were introduced. Mixed healthcare systems also ensure that most people, i.e those who cannot afford to pay for services, face much higher wait-times.


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