NDP slams surgery partnership at The Ottawa Hospital
Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles is slamming the Ford government over a partnership between The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) and a group of orthopedic surgeons who are renting operating rooms at the Riverside campus to perform hip and knee replacements on Saturdays.
Last month, the hospital announced Academic Orthopedic Surgical Associates of Ottawa Inc. (AOAO) would begin performing the surgeries on Feb. 25 at the Riverside, where operating rooms normally sit empty on weekends. Ten surgeries were performed that day, followed by another 10 on March 4.
Public health-care advocates, unions and some physicians have questioned the partnership between the hospital and a private corporation, asking why the surgeries couldn't be performed under the existing publicly funded framework.
At a news conference in front of the Riverside on Friday morning, Stiles blamed the provincial government for creating the conditions that opened the door to such a partnership.
"They've moved forward with their plan to turn our public health-care system into a two-tiered, investor-driven private model. And here we are today where Academic Orthopedic Surgical Associates, a group of private, for-profit health-care providers, are renting out operating rooms and poaching nurses and staff from an already staff-starved hospital, offering double the pay," said Stiles, who was joined outside the hospital by Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden.
"This is exactly what we were afraid was going to happen, and it's happening right now as we stand here today."
Details of partnership still murky
Details of the partnership between TOH and AOAO are still murky. CBC News has made numerous requests to speak with the eight surgeons listed with the Ontario Business Registry as active directors of AOAO, as well as hospital president and CEO Cameron Love and Health Minister Sylvia Jones, none of whom has agreed to an interview.
According to a written statement issued last week by the hospital on behalf of AOAO, the surgeries at the Riverside are being performed on a "cost-recovery model" involving "registered TOH patients" and are "billed through OHIP, as per standard practice."
It remains unclear how much the group is paying the hospital to rent the operating rooms, how the group is choosing eligible patients for the surgeries, or whether the surgeons are billing OHIP a 50 per cent premium for surgeries performed on weekends.
Critics also fear the arrangement risks deepening a provincewide shortage of registered nurses by offering them roughly double what they'd earn for a normal weekday shift at the hospital.
On Friday evening, TOH confirmed it currently has "over 500 nursing roles to fill that are in different stages of the hiring process."
Some of the vacancies are newly created roles, while others are due to retirement, resignation or redeployment within the hospital, it said in a statement.
Long wait times
Stiles said with adequate funding and competitive compensation for nurses and other critical workers, TOH would be able to extend operating hours and whittle down the wait-list for orthopedic surgeries without relying on a private group.
"We're kind of going around a system that already does actually work if it's properly funded, if they invest those public dollars," Stiles said. "So my question is, why should a hospital have to concoct a scheme like this?"
According to the latest figures from Ontario Health, TOH patients wait considerably longer than the provincial average for hip and knee replacements.
Responding to a question from Harden at Queen's Park last week, Jones applauded the partnership between the hospital and AOAO.
"It is a good news story, and we will continue to invest in those innovative models," the health minister said.