Credits: QMI/Ottawa Sun
It’s one of those great Canadian success stories -- and something of an anomaly in Canadian health care.
The famed Shouldice Hospital is world-renowned for its treatment of hernias.
For 67 years, it’s offered speedy service and excellent care.
And it’s out of step with the rest of the system because it’s private -- it has a unique grandfathered status.
For Ontarians, that’s not an issue. The Shouldice accepts OHIP for all the services that are covered by the provincial health insurance plan. You don’t pay out of pocket to go there.
So what’s the problem?
Well, there’s a $14-million deal in the works to sell Shouldice to Centric, a company whose biggest shareholder is a U.S. venture capital company.
That has some people up in arms.
After all, excellence is such a rare commodity in hospitals these days, you can certainly see where there are those who’d rather we not continue operating a hospital that provides superior service. Wouldn’t want to show up the others, would we?
The deal needs the approval of Health Minister Deb Matthews.
She says no decision has been made on whether to allow the sale.
“There is a request in and the ministry is reviewing that right now,” she said, but added a caveat.
“They’re committed to public hospitals, not-for-profit hospitals. We’re not going to increase the number of for-profit hospitals, so the ministry is reviewing the issue and no decision has been made.”
New Democrats say it’s time to bring the Shouldice into the public realm.
“This is a golden opportunity to bring it into the not-for-profit sector,” said NDP health critic France Gelinas.
“The difference is that you and I probably cannot afford to go there,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a hernia, if you’re high risk, if you need the surgery you could not be seen there unless you have a ton of money,” she said.
Who was that great New Democrat who used the Shouldice to get his hernia fixed?
Oh, right. It was Saint Jack Layton.
Back in the 1990s, Layton very sensibly chose to go there on the recommendation of his doctor.
When this news broke in 2006, Layton said he wasn’t aware the hospital was private.
“This was no secret, believe me,” he told a CP reporter.
“Every family I knew, every middle-aged man that ever ran into a hernia, went to Shouldice. It’s part of the system, still is.”
The hospital is named for Dr. Edward Earle Shouldice, whose aim was to provide speedy hernia treatments for soldiers awaiting military training.
A spokesman for the Shouldice says it’s not true that patients with the most money can get faster treatment, and more than 97% of procedures Shouldice performs are paid for by OHIP.
“The vast majority of our patients are Ontario patients,” said director of development Daryl Urquhart.
“Our first objective is to handle the Ontario patients as they come through our door and what is left in available space can be filled up by international patients or, indeed, an out-of-province Canadian patient.”
Patients are admitted based the nature of their condition, whether they require urgent care, or whether they require elective surgery that has no degree of urgency.
“This is a hospital which provides very high-quality, world-renowned service at an extremely low cost to the ministry,” Urquhart said.
Well, we certainly can’t have that in a mediocre public-health system in this province.
So long as the care is paid for by OHIP, what’s the problem?
In fact, shouldn’t we be encouraging more niche market hospitals that specialize in services such as this? The Shouldice has shown it has a winning formula.
Besides, if the late, great Jack Layton gave the Shouldice his seal of approval, that should be good enough for the rest of us.