Ontario hospitals urged to stop pursuing 'medical tourists'

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins. (ANTONELLA ARTUSO/QMI Agency)

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins. (ANTONELLA ARTUSO/QMI Agency)

Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

TORONTO -- Hospitals should be ordered to stop pursuing "medical tourists" while Ontarians join wait lists for health-care services, a coalition says in an open letter to Health Minister Eric Hoskins.

Doris Grinspun, of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), said she first learned of the practice when Toronto's University Health Network (UHN) agreed to accept patients sent by the Libyan government, but it has since spread to other hospitals.

"We made a deal with the devil to take care of I don't even know who," Grinspun said. "Medical tourism is a whole trend."

Nurses have told her that women from China come to Toronto and pay a fee to have their second babies, which are frowned upon in their home country, Grinspun said.

These patients are not being brought to Ontario for humanitarian reasons, like children from war-torn or Third World countries, but because the services can generally be provided more cheaply than in the United States, she said.

RNAO, the Association of Ontario Health Centres and the Association of Ontario Midwives sent an open letter to Hoskins Wednesday that says if there are surplus nurses or doctors in the province, they would recommend directing those extra health-care resources to the more pressing needs of Ontario patients.

Grinspun said she believes that hospital executives are eager to play in the "big leagues" like some U.S. hospitals that routinely take in international patients for big money.

"It's the beginning of the end of medicare, of universality," she said.


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