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BC's experimental health funding model adds costs: British MP

British Columbia should reconsider its move towards patient-focused funding for surgery, former British secretary of state for health and current Labour Member of Parliament Frank Dobson said today.

“It doesn't work and it's very expensive to administer,” Dobson said in an interview following his speech a CUPE health care conference in Victoria today.

In Britain, when money was given to hospitals in “big dollops” the administration costs were low, he said. “The minute you start individualizing it you need a system which covers all the individuals and all the costs and that's really, really expensive.”

In B.C. Health Minister Kevin Falcon has been championing a push towards more patient-focused funding as a way to encourage hospitals to be more efficient. Yesterday, for example, he announced $22-million in patient-focused funds for Lower Mainland emergency rooms.

The B.C. experience may or may not turn out to be as bad as Britain's, said Dobson, “but it is unavoidably more expensive.”

During his speech he said such a funding model increases the need to track patients and adds layers of administration and accounting. “That is not a good way of using people's time,” he said.

In Britain, patient-focused funding added eight percent to administration costs, which translated to $13 billion CDN a year for paperwork. “I can't think any sane person would seriously say that's good value for anybody's money.”

Dobson also criticized user fees, an idea regularly proposed in Canada. “We all know who would be put off and who wouldn't be put off,” he said. “The badly off would be put off . . . The badly off are ill more often and die sooner. They are the people we should be encouraging to go to the doctor sooner and more often. We shouldn't be putting them off.”

He suggested user fees are the private sector's solution for dealing with the fact people are living longer: “Let poor people die sooner because they don't get treated.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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