Despite the federal crackdown on private clinics, Québec continues to tip-toe around the Canada Health Act, claiming their existing private clinics aid their universal healthcare system.
According to the Fraser Institute, private surgical clinics have an “increasingly large role” in how Québec administers health care to residents. They now constitute one in six taxpayer-funded surgeries.
“Quebec has increasingly used private clinics as part of its universal health care system, particularly during and after the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the surgical backlog,” said Yanick Labrie, Fraser Institute senior fellow and author of the report, Lessons from the Public Private Partnerships in Surgical Care in Quebec.
“The Québec experience shows that private clinics are a complement to, and not a substitute for, the public system,” he said.
Following a 2006 Supreme Court ruling, private surgical clinics in the province have performed select surgeries covered by public health insurance.
Initially the province allowed knee and hip replacements and cataract surgeries, but now there are 51 taxpayer-funded procedures performed in private surgical clinics.
“That’s good news for patients as the most successful health care systems have both public and private options,” said Colin Craig, president of SecondStreet.org.
In Québec, public hospitals can sign agreements with private surgical clinics to outsource certain surgeries if hospital wait times exceed provincial targets, he added.
The number of private clinics in Québec has grown precipitously from 45 in 2014 to 73 in 2023.
Over the past decade, those facilities have become more prevalent in performing surgeries, from 6.1% in 2011 to one in six (17.1%) this year.
Craig lauds Québec’s “collaborative approach” with private providers as an example for other parts of Canada to follow.
“Other provinces can look to the Quebec experience with public private partnerships in health delivery to see what is possible even within the Canada Health Act,” added Labrie.
“Canadian patients everywhere should have the same opportunities to access timely care no matter where they are in the country, including private clinics which are thriving in Quebec.”
“Private clinics have flourished in Québec because […] those clinics can serve Québec patients and patients in the rest of the country,” added Craig.
“In the rest of the country, private clinics aren’t allowed to perform surgery on local patients — they have to come from another province.”