We'd Like To KnowForewarned is forearmed. And shouldn't the public have full knowledge of those medical clinics whose hygiene practices and medical performance is below par? When patients are referred to those private clinics under an arrangement between them and the Province of Ontario to provide specific services to free up time and space at area hospitals, shouldn't we have confidence in the efficacy and health-safety of their procedures?
Instead, we blindly, suspecting nothing amiss, follow doctors' orders and attend on those clinics which provide the service and bill OHIP accordingly. Only there are times when some of those clinics whose procedures and equipment are not up to par fail to follow through on their responsibility to provide reliable, first-rate service to vulnerable patients.
The clinics and stand-alone health facilities are subject to inspection through the auspices of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. Those inspections have become a requirement since the death of a young woman undergoing liposuction at one such clinic in 2007. Coroner's inquests often provide a valuable service when doing a forensic audit of unfortunate outcomes, making it safer, in theory, for others requiring such services.
How safe, however, is open to conjecture, since nine different clinics were in the failed category of good service. They failed inspections under the program designed to uphold standards at the increasing number of stand-alone health facilities that augment treatment and minor surgeries at the province's hospitals. Some used outdated defibrillators, some had inadequate infection-control procedures and hadn't qualified staff.
The inspections deemed these clinics to represent an excessive risk to patients. Another 64 of the 251 inspected clinics were given a conditional rating. The college issues these oblique notices but it cannot identify the specific clinics held to be risky for patients' health outcomes. The College of Physicians and Surgeons explains that it is forbidden by law from revealing which operations it finds providing sub-par service to the public.
Which indicates that there is more work to be done on that particular file. It's a fine thing to inspect the premises of health-and-surgical procedure-providing private clinics. But since nine of the 251 which were inspected failed their inspections, those failing the grade should be identified. When restaurants are inspected and found wanting in hygienic premises and safe food preparation techniques, their names are listed.
Health outcomes due to surgeries and exposure to unhygienic equipment is far more critical. The gap here needs to be addressed and redressed. Privacy laws are one thing, but the right of patients to be assured that the treatment they are exposed to will not create even greater problems for them should also be ensured. When something does go awry at a clinic, patients are then informed of their infection risk after the fact.
That's simply not good enough. If the Ottawa Hospital anticipates outsourcing thousands of endoscopies and cataract surgeries a year to private clinics and community hospitals they should be concerned about the reliability of the procedures just as much as the patients undergoing them. The Province needs to take a long hard second look at this.
It most certainly requires a long hard look.