June 2023 Health Report

By Kerry Gibson, Health Convenor

Current inflation and market instability will have dire long-term consequences for health tech innovation and private sector plays that the Canadian health industry relies on since investors are pulling back. This will also affect NGOs in the health and social services fields as funders are favouring a more conservative approach. The pandemic created extraordinary interest in investment into health care. However, much of that investment was pushed into hype stock rather than strategic investments with longevity. Many tech companies that had large raises did not yet have a proven technology, but were operating as a lucrative pump and dump investment scheme. Now, with markedly reduced investment overall, and with women-led companies only receiving 1% of investment funding, health care and research for women is going to fall even further behind.

The conversation and controversy regarding privatization of health care continues as Ontario passes Bill 60, which theoretically uses private clinic capacity for publicly funded procedures. Certain allowances have already been made in BC and Quebec, and Alberta is considering how much private involvement to allow in the public sector. However, BC is already having second thoughts as the private entities are upselling creating an inequitable service rather than a universal one. The need for additional capacity is indisputable, but stringent policy, process, and procedural regulations must be piloted particularly to protect marginalized, remote, and lower-income populations.

BC is known for its innovation of creative solutions, but the bureaucracy disallows BC born companies to thrive locally and pushing the intellectual property, manufacturing, and distribution out of Canada to more welcoming economies. For instance, a Richmond-based company announced its new health care robot that is designed to do menial tasks in a hospital (sanitize, take out the garbage, deliver supplies, provide security, etc.), but with a $200,000 price tag, it is unlikely that Canadian health care staff will benefit from this technology. The provincial government might want to reconsider the terms and boundaries of public private partnerships (the current regulations are onerous and prohibitive) in order to welcome pilots for Made in BC innovation to be used as a proof of concept for local hospitals and clinics, benefitting both the company and its public partner.