Toronto students decide it's healthier to not go private
By Lindsey Huculiak
The University of Toronto has decided to spurn the idea of privatizing its health care services with quality of care being the largest sore spot.
Sara Taman, acting director of student health services at the university, said they had been considering privatization in an effort to reduce costs to students. Currently students pay $35 each to health services, for a total of $1.1 million annually.
She added although lowering fees was a necessity, she was concerned with the effect privatization would have on services.
"We are worried about the quality of the services and loss of control," Taman said. "We don't want to compromise the quality of student health care by having a profit-based company run the services."
Currently the university has a student health plan much like Western's, which is run by the non-profit Ontario College Health Association.
A University of Toronto health committee review meeting was held yesterday at which the committee decided not to sign on with Collegiate Health Care Canada, an American-based health care company who had recently approached the school about the possibility of taking over its student health services division.
"The quality of service has gone up in every case in North America," said Rick Bendera, vice-president of Collegiate. He added the company has patients fill out a survey rating the service they received.
Privatization poses no risks, Bendera added. "It's not all talk. If we don't do the things we say we'll do, we have promised to pay financial penalties back into the institution."
Taman said because Collegiate is an American-based company, a factor in the decision was the idea profits would be leaving the country. "The American company doesn't have a good model for Canada. It's hard to offer much more in that area."
However, Bendera said the money earned would not go south of the border. "The profits stay in Canada and it's built and staffed by Canadians. It's totally Canadian."
Bendera said he had contacted Western's Society of Graduate Students about eight months ago to seek input on the issue. However, the president of the society of graduate students, Andrew Hui, said there is no paperwork of any interactions between Collegiate and SOGS.
Jim Walden, general manager of Western's University Students' Council, said the only aspect of the issue which is the responsibility of SOGS is the attempt to lower the cost of a student activity fee. Western students currently pay $38.95 for their student health plan.
"Privatization is a complicated matter and that, at present, Western is not really concerned with changes to its health care system," Walden said.