Privatization hits COVID-19 testing during Omicron surge
By Pat Van Horne, USW member of the CHC Board of Directors
A recent article in the Toronto Star reveals that a scarcity of publicly accessible Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests to confirm COVID-19 infection has led to the opening of private, for-profit clinics offering PCR tests for large fees.
According to reporter Rose Saba, Ontarians can pay $159 for same-day results or $350 to receive PCR test results in an hour at private clinics popping up across Ontario.
“Profiteering during a health care crisis goes against every principle of medicare,” said CHC Chairperson Pauline Worsfold, RN. “Private PCR testing clinics promote a two-tier approach to health care at a time when universal coverage is crucial. Governments must improve funding to ensure equitable access to diagnostic services.”
As COVID-19 cases surge, private clinics are advertising their services for same-day testing results or faster-turnaround for a greater cost.
The Toronto Star article quotes palliative care physician Naheed Dosani, who agrees that the private clinics are another symptom of the broader problem of inequity of some people being able to pay for quicker access to potentially life-saving health care.
“Meanwhile, my patients are testing positive on rapid tests, and can’t get access to a PCR test for days. It should make every Ontarian so angry.”
Another physician, Andrew Boozary, said the fact that private companies can offer tests for hundreds of dollars is a symptom of an issue that existed pre-pandemic.
“There has been chronic underinvestment in our public health care infrastructure,” he said. “And now, private companies are seizing on this and it feels exploitative. It causes real divides.”
- Read “Struggling to book a PCR test? Here’s how to get one for $159” by Rosa Saba in the Toronto Star, December 30, 2021