Updated: Mar 4
Opinion: It may be too late for governments to regulate this quiet takeover of a key health-care sector
Over the past decade or so, both large and small corporations have been encroaching on Canada’s public-health system by buying and building primary-care clinics.
Almost as quietly, doctors — who in the past have gone on strike to protest being put on government salaries — are signing on as corporate employees.
It’s gone so far that some health-policy researchers believe Canada may have passed the tipping point with little that governments can now do to regulate them in ways that ensure both the public and patients’ interests are protected.
The B.C. Health Ministry has incomplete data on walk-in clinics, according to a spokesperson. But of the 516 that it has identified, close to one in five is owned by a “non-physician corporation.”
The 97 non-physician corporations include Jack Nathan Health, Primacy Management and the multinational Well Health. Of the 97 companies, 27 have applied for government help since it announced a $118-million stabilization fund for primary care clinics.
The $118 million is intended to pay administrative and overhead costs of doctors’ clinics until the new payment system for family physicians kicks in, according to a ministry spokesperson. Under the new model, the total remuneration for family physicians is about to increase by more than 50 per cent to an average of $385,000 a year.
For years, the B.C. government has pursued the Cambie Surgery Centre Clinic in the courts. In December, the Medical Services Commission filed a request for an injunction against Telus Health, alleging that it provides preferential access to publicly funded services. This month, it took a similar step against Harrison Healthcare.
But companies like Jack Nathan, Primacy and Well Health have largely flown under the radar.
That may be changing.