Health authority weighs bids from three private clinics

Island Health is evaluating proposals from three private clinics as it works toward contracting out up to 55,000 publicly funded day procedures over the next three to five years — the health authority’s largest and longest contract yet to reduce wait times.

Once the contract or contracts are awarded, Island Health could be the leader in using private clinics for publicly funded day surgeries in the province.

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“We’re looking at doing things differently and if we’re out ahead and this is a success, I hope other jurisdictions follow us,” said Suzanne Germain, spokeswoman for Island Health, on Wednesday.

By the May 29 deadline, Island Health had received three responses to its April request for proposals.

Island Health wants private clinics to provide up to 4,000 day surgeries — everything from knee and hernia repairs to gall-bladder removals — each year over a three- to five-year contract for a maximum of 20,000 procedures.

Island Health is also looking for a private clinic or clinics to provide up to 4,000 endoscopic procedures — colonoscopies — on the south Island and up to 3,000 endoscopies in the central Island each year over the same period for a maximum of 35,000.

Norm Peters, Island Health’s executive director for surgical services, estimates it will take six to eight weeks to evaluate the proposals, choose one or more preferred proponents and hammer out agreements.

“We’re just in the start of the review stage,” Peters said.

Depending on what’s proposed, Island Health could be awarding one contract to a single company or two contracts to different companies on the south and central Island.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake said the use of private clinics for publicly funded day procedures is strengthening the public system by increasing the number of more complex surgeries that can be carried out in hospitals.

Of 541,885 publicly funded surgeries in B.C. in 2013-14, 5,503 were done in private facilities.

In 2013-14, Island Health funded 160 day surgical procedures to be performed in private clinics.

That was less than the previous year when Island Health contracted out 511 publicly funded procedures for adults to private clinics and 31 for children for a total of 542.

Interior Health contracted out the most publicly funded day surgeries in 2013-14 to private facilities — 2,053 adult procedures and 173 pediatric procedures for a total of 2,226.

If Island Health goes on to fund a maximum of 10,000 procedures annually over the next five years through private clinics, the health authority will lead the province in doing so.

Peters said with more day surgeries, such as varicose vein procedures, being performed by private clinics, more capacity is created in hospitals to perform hip and knee procedures, which also have long wait-lists.

On Monday Health Minister Terry Lake announced $10 million to be shared by six health authorities over the next year to bring down surgical wait-lists, especially for people waiting more than 40 weeks.

The health authorities have not yet been told what their shares of the $10 million will be. Island Health suspects the initial funding will be used to reduce wait-lists for people waiting to have varicose veins removed, hernias repaired and plastic surgery on hands, for example.

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