News release

Equipment Funding is Best Value for Patients, Op-Ed

NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece from Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine.

There has been some questions about how the Cape Breton District Health Authority purchased a new CT scanner for the Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital. I would like to explain how the purchase worked, and why we believe it's the best way to ensure residents of Inverness County get the CT scans they need quickly, through our public medicare system, and close to home.

Government heard people's concerns about a lack of CT scanner in the community and agreed to provide funding. The district then took advantage of a provincial clause in all district health authority equipment purchases to "piggyback" on an existing request for proposal. This allows districts to get a better price by working together. It also allows them to get new equipment in place more quickly, something the residents of Inverness told us strongly they wanted. That's why General Electric is providing the new CT scanner for the Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital.

By purchasing a new machine, the province is able to save money for taxpayers. Atlantic Medical Imaging Services has proposed installing a machine and charging Nova Scotians what MSI currently pays when someone gets a scan outside the province. That cost is $670. The local health authority has calculated the cost per exam at about $250 if the scanner is purchased and operated by the public health-care system.

Senior staff and I met with Atlantic Medical Imaging Services last year. My department received some preliminary information about their offer in recent weeks. The purchasing process for the Inverness CT scanner was already months in the making by that point.

The company's offer is interesting, but would represent a fundamental change in our health-care system by inserting private equipment into a public hospital. Government is not prepared to enter into this type of arrangement, which could have significant implications for our public system.

We must keep in mind there are many unanswered questions. What would happen if a company were to put privately owned equipment in a public hospital, then go out of business? How could we ensure fees remained fair, and quality remained high? How might this arrangement impact the Canada Health Act? What could this mean for other areas of our publicly funded health-care system?

Nova Scotians want to be confident that when we buy high-tech, expensive equipment for our publicly funded hospitals, we are ensuring value for their tax dollars and access for patients. They also want their government to understand fully the implications of new arrangements when we enter them.

Simply put, my department did not have enough information to enter an arrangement that could forever alter how we operate services within our public health-care system. We had two choices: wait, research the offer fully, and delay the CT scanner for months, or even a year, or move forward with the purchase now.

We believe we have made the best choice for the residents of Inverness County.

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