Surgical strike

Advanced Education and Labour Market Development Minister Moira Stiwell's husband Samuel Lichenstein has a stake in a private surgical centre that has advocated for more private involvement in the public healthcare system. According to Minister Stilwell's public disclosure statement, Dr. Lichenstein's company has a "partnership interest" in Ambulatory Surgical Centre (Vancouver) Ltd. Dr. Lichenstein, the head of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at St. Paul's Hospital, didn't respond to a request for details about that interest. Nor was the centre anymore forthcoming, with executive director Lenore Van Oene telling Public Eye, "I don't know if I can say because it's a private company."

But, in the past, the centre - which contributed $4,400 to the Liberals between 2006 and the recent election - has spoken out about its desire to see more private involvement in the public healthcare system.

In a 2004 presentation to the province's finance and government services committee, its co-founder Don Werry assured legislators his company's goal is "not to create a parallel so-called private health care system...we have not marketed ourselves to would-be queue jumpers."

Instead, Dr. Werry - an orthopaedic surgeon and former member of several St. Paul's Hospital committees, said he sees the surgical centre's future as being "an integral part of the publicly funded healthcare system, complementary to our publicly administered hospitals."

But, to achieve that future, he urged legislators "authorize and require health authorities to purchase surgical services from the most efficient providers" - whether they're public or private.

Although he later criticized defenders of the status quo for "making the assumption consciously or unconsciously that our publicly administered hospitals are the most efficient and effective possible providers of care, and we know that they're not."

A government spokesperson ministry said Minister Stilwell, the former head of nuclear medicine at St. Paul's Hospital, was unavailable to comment on Dr. Lichenstein's interest in the centre or her own views about the public healthcare system.

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