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Ottawa Hospital says for-profit surgeries not impacting other procedures

Ottawa Hospital
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The Ottawa Hospital says it's working with a group of surgeons providing for-profit orthopedic surgeries at the Riverside Campus on Saturdays to ensure there is "no impact on staffing" and cancer procedures at the hospital.

Ottawa's largest hospital continues to face questions about its partnership with the Academic Orthopedic Surgical Associates of Ottawa to increase orthopedic surgery capacity on Saturdays. Under the partnership, operating rooms at the Riverside Campus, which are normally closed on Saturdays, are open for hip and knee replacement surgeries performed by orthopedic surgeons.

Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden is calling on the Ontario government to investigate the agreement between TOH and the AOAO physicians, saying he is hearing cancer patients waiting for surgeries are being bumped in favour of other procedures.

"It's come to my attention that cancer patients waiting for surgery right now are being bumped by clients of the for-profit client that's been operating on Saturdays at the Riverside campus of the Ottawa Hospital," Harden told the Ontario Legislature on Tuesday.

"This for-profit clinic has been offering nurses double the wages they earn in our public hospital system, and that has had an impact on our public system's ability to have the staffing capacity ready for cancer surgery for patients in urgent need."

In a lengthy statement issued on Wednesday, the Ottawa Hospital said less than half of the Academic Orthopedic Surgical Associates of Ottawa's staff are Ottawa Hospital employees, and they work in a variety of roles.

"Care teams at The Ottawa Hospital have worked closely with AOAO to ensure there is no impact on staffing at the hospital," the statement said. "AOAO recruits their staff from across the region’s health-care institutions, and therefore has access to a larger pool of health-care professionals.

"We will continue monitoring staffing levels at the hospital and adjust accordingly, as needed."

The Ottawa Hospital released a statement on Feb. 16 announcing the partnership for surgeries at the Ottawa Hospital Riverside Campus, but have released few other details since. The Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Ontario Nurses Association have held protests outside the Ottawa Hospital Riverside Campus on Saturdays, raising concerns about private surgeries in the hospital and poaching staff at a higher salary.

During the first four Saturdays of the surgical partnership, surgeons and staff at the Riverside campus have performed 40 procedures.

"That’s 40 people in need of hip and knee surgeries who are no longer on the waiting list, living and waiting in pain, where the average wait time is 250 days for hip surgery and 209 for knee surgery," the Ottawa Hospital said in a statement.

"This partnership has led to a 20 per cent increase in surgical productivity for the hospital."

The hospital compares the partnership with the AOAO to last year's partnership with the Focus Eye Centre, which provided additional capacity for cataract surgery.  

"Overall, the partnership has also meant that TOH’s operating rooms have been more available for patients with other kinds of surgical needs. As the largest hospital in Eastern Ontario, we manage all types of care. This partnership has, in a small way, enabled us to preserve the operating rooms for the most complex kinds of care," the hospital said. 

"Like our partnerships with Focus Eye Centre and regional hospitals, working with AOAO has allowed TOH to increase access to surgical care while ensuring we maintain integrated care for patients and families throughout the region. These partnerships simply provide additional access for our patients to the surgery they require."

The Ottawa Hospital says its rental agreement and partnership with the AOAO is "no different" than "many partnerships" it has across its 19 satellite sites in the community.

As for the cost of the procedures, the Ottawa Hospital say no patient at TOH or AOAO will pay for any surgery, and any cost savings from the for-profit orthopedic surgeries will be reinvested back into the hospital.

"As with all TOH finances, any efficiencies created in these cases are reinvested into patient care, which is and always will be our priority," TOH said.

"For example, the cost of a knee or hip surgery at TOH is approximately $8,000, while the cost of doing that same surgery through AOAO is $6,400. Those cost savings are reinvested into the hospital and patient care."

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