Following the lengthy lineups at government sites and long waits for results from laboratories, Private medical clinics are offering COVID-19 tests to Canadians willing to pay a fee of about $50 to $250. Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Monday; these clinics were going against the country’s universal healthcare system’s essence. Hajdu said she had spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about individuals accessing COVID-19 tests for around $250 and her concerns that this violated the Canada Health Act.
Hajdu said the law stated that should not exist, and they had several measures that they could take under the Canada Health Act if that’s happening. Besides, she said these tests were not covered by provincial health plans and were not approved by Health Canada. Hajdu said it’s essential that clinics only use Health Canada approved tests, citing that unregulated testing devices could lead to significant adverse outcomes.
Hajdu addressed this issue after Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he got a COVID-19 test at a private clinic in Gatineau, Que., designated for Parliament members and paid for by the House of Commons, after being turned away at an at-capacity public facility in Ottawa. Two other MPs said they had used the service for themselves or family members, who paid for their tests. NDP whip Rachel Blaney said she had advised her MPs not to use the private option. Besides, Blaney said she was from the party of Tommy Douglas, so they needed a healthy and robust public health care system.
The private clinics’ executives said they use commercial labs to process their tests and were not draining resources from the public health care system. Dilian Stoyanov, chief executive officer of Switch Health Holdings Inc., said he was taking some of the public system’s burdens by making the test available to individuals and employers.
The Ontario government has announced a series of changes to testing rules as it tries to clear the backlog of tests. This week, the province’s assessment centers will switch to an appointment-only model and no longer accept walk-ins as of Sunday. Children with symptoms do not need to get tested to return to schools and daycare centers.