Following today's CBC story on the Copeman clinic Friends of Medicare are calling on the Provincial and Federal Governments to take responsibility for protecting the interests of patients and our public health care system. The story highlighted instances of both patients and Alberta Health Services paying for services, with additional strain on our public purse through tax deductions for Copeman patients.
"The finding of the CBC's story show an abuse of the public trust by the Copeman clinic. We know that our health resources are limited and should not go towards two tiered care. Copeman is adding insult to injury by charging patients while relying on AHS services for these publicly covered services. Our funding and resources that should be going to improving and expanding public health care are instead going towards the profit-margins of these boutique clinics," said Executive Director Sandra Azocar. "We are pleased that the Alberta Ministry of Health is auditing the Copeman clinic, but we also believe the audit should be expanded to all profit driven concierge clinics operating in Alberta."
"In addition, we want to see the province take any action available against Copeman to protect the interests of patients and our health system. If allowed to continue, Copeman's business practices will greatly undermine our public health care system. This looks like a case of tying up much needed resources by using diagnostic services in the pursuit of profits, and creating an expensive second tier of health services only available to those who can afford it," added Azocar.
While the province has taken the welcome step of auditing Copeman, action or comment from the Federal Government has been absent.
Precedent was set in the 1990s when then Federal Health Minister Diane Marleau raised concerns over fees charged at private clinics and called on the provinces to introduce regulatory frameworks for private clinics to "ensure reasonable access to medically necessary services and to support the viability of the publicly funded and administered system in the future."
Azocar continued, "These long-standing practices at Copeman show serious neglect from our previous governments, and it is time for Federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott to show leadership on this issue. We need a Federal Government that will monitor and investigate clinics like Copeman for potential abuse. They should support the provinces taking steps to end potential abuses, and step in in cases where provinces are unwilling to ensure the Canada Health Act is being followed."