As the chair of Providence Health Care, Kip Woodward urged British Columbia's health services minister to allow his organization to "bid for services from private clinics" while holding a stake in a private hospital. This, according to correspondence obtained by New Democrat critic Adrian Dix. But, in an interview with Public Eye, the senior spokesperson for British Columbia's Lower Mainland health authorities stated, "Anybody who's suggesting he's trying to feather his own nest based on his family investment is reading way too much into it," with Kevin Falcon earlier telling reporters Mr. Woodward wasn't in a conflict because he had disclosed that investment.
Public Eye first reported on Mr. Woodward's involvement with Brian Day's Cambie Surgery Centre earlier this month. Before being appointed Providence's chair in 2006, he sat on the board of directors of the company responsible for that private hospital. And his family holding company continues to have a stake in that facility, having been one of its founding investors.
Mr. Woodward has recently left Providence and is now chair of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. But, six months before that happened, he sent a letter to Minister Falcon stating that "without opportunities for business development and revenue growth, the public health care system is unsustainable."
To that end, he recommended the government address a number of issues - including allowing Providence to "bid for services from private clinics. The introduction of competition for health care service delivery is the single best tool for cost management, and yet we are prohibited from doing this currently."
Mr. Dix told reporters that recommendation could "directly benefit Cambie Surgery Centre and other private clinics," raising "some questions around conflict of interest" and creating "issues that, I think, should preclude him from being chair of Vancouver Coastal."
But, in an interview with Public Eye, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority communications and public affairs vice-president Clay Adams said Mr. Woodward's advocacy for increased usage of private clinics has nothing to do with his investment and everything to do with an ongoing conversation about their place in the public healthcare system.
"If you look at the context of his letter where he suggested there were opportunities for more private clinic involvement in the public health system, I don't think that should come as a surprise to anybody. Over the years, there has been work going on with private clinics across the health sector generally," said Mr. Adams.
"Vancouver Coastal certainly did it back in 2004 with some clinics - Cambie was one, False Creek was another - to do surgeries to catchup from the (British Columbia Nurses' Union) strike. You can go way back to the days of Lions Gate Hospital with private clinic cataract surgery back in about 99/2000 where surgeries were done with private clinics on the North Shore," he continued.
As for whether Mr. Woodward was in a conflict, the health services minister told reporters today there was none because "he's always been upfront about that. He's always adhered to whatever conflict provisions are in place in terms of disclosing his interest."
Mr. Adams said Mr. Woodward was on a family vacation for the next few days and unavailable for comment.
The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned correspondence.