Clinic wants payment for sterilizing instruments

Fee charged to patients will be replaced with 'tray fee' paid by Alberta Health Care Insurance.

Calgary (1 May 2009) - A Calgary clinic has been ordered to stop charging patients fees for sterilizing instruments used during their visits.

The medical centre says it will comply with the order to stop charging $5 when fewer than five instruments are used or $10 when the number is more than five. Patients who have been charged since March will be reimbursed.

However, the clinic says it will replace the banned charges with a new "tray fee" for supplies and equipment used "in an office setting" rather than in a hospital. The province will then pick up the cost rather than individual patients.

The order to stop charging sterilization fees was issued by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) following an inquiry by CBC News.

"Having sterile instruments is such a fundamental need in health care that I'm surprised. What are they going to be doing, charging us for cleaning rooms?" patient Kathie Booth told the CBC.

The clinic says it needs to increase revenue to offset the cost of new sterilization procedures imposed by the CPSA.

The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) reimburses doctors for tray fees — typically $7.71 for minor procedures and $22.83 for major ones — in the case of insured procedures.

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