Nurses launch freedom of information request to get to the bottom of medical tourism
TORONTO, Sept.30, 2014 – The organization that represents registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario has issued a formal request to the provincial government for information related to medical tourism.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is seeking all general records between 2009 to the present regarding the treatment of international patients (also known as medical tourists) not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) in the province’s hospitals. The request includes all letters, reports, briefings, agreements, hand-written notes, electronic documents and emails from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Treasury Board, Finance, Cabinet Office and the Office of the Premier.
“Hospitals that are part of Toronto’s University Health Network, and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre have made no secret that they are open for business when it comes to treating patients from abroad for a fee,” says RNAO's Chief Executive Officer Doris Grinspun, adding that the CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital is also pursuing a partnership with Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit to formalize a ‘medical free-trade zone’ that he says will become the ‘envy of the health-care world.’
RNAO hopes the request for information will reveal where else medical tourism is occurring and to what extent the Ontario government is behind this attack on Medicare.
Medical tourism is the practice of soliciting international patients for medical treatment within Canada's health system in order to turn a profit. “It will erode the viability of our health system, a cherished part of our social safety net, and shift it from one that understands its mission to treat all according to need, to an Americanized version where health-care services are for sale to those with money and power,” says Grinspun.
“Allowing hospitals to go shopping for patients to increase their revenue redirects precious resources away from the people who need care the most – patients in Ontario,” says RNAO President, Vanessa Burkoski, adding that hospitals that engage in medical tourism are inviting lawsuits from people willing to pay a fee to get ahead of the line.
“What particularly alarms nurses is the lack of transparency on the part of the Ontario government when it comes to disclosing this ugly trend to the public,” stresses Burkoski. Despite letters to both Premier Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Eric Hoskins calling for a ban on medical tourism, the practice continues. “We hear that the government is investigating but in our view, there is nothing to investigate when there is clear evidence that hospitals are engaging in medical tourism,” adding that even one is one too many.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.