Friday, November 5, 2010

A Call for renewal of the Canada Health Act, and for public health care

By Rod Mickelburgh, Globe and Mail, November 5, 2010
Private vs public health care in Canada...
(In reference to the fact that Canada has not prosecuted doctors who provide health care from their private clinic, Mr. Steven Lewis, a health care consultant says,)"It’s the Neville Chamberlain approach,” sighs health policy consultant Steven Lewis, a strong critic of for-profit medicine. “Peace at any cost. Don’t ask. Don’t tell.”
Mr. Lewis doesn’t disagree that medicare still needs to improves its delivery of services, but the answer is not to allow someone to pay for something his neighbour can’t afford to. “That’s not fair,” he says.
“The solution is to make the public system good enough, so we don’t have facilities like Dr. Day’s clinic cherry-picking low risk, high volume, lucrative services.”
This story documents the operation of a private medical clinic taking self-paying patients for surgery, while at the same time, significantly reducing their wait times, compared with the public health care system.
There is no doubt that as "boomers" age, there will be increased strain on the public purse to pay for the level of intervention, surgical, medical, psychiatric, rehab, natal, social, spiritual, palliative, pharmaceutical and geriatric..that will be required. However, the provision of private "first-come" medical care for those who can afford it, contrary to the profoundly held belief of the doctor who operated the storied clinic, is simply not the answer to that strain.
And we have deliberate vagueness in the writing of the act, enabling those who seek to provide, and those who seek to acquire private medical services, to do so without legal risk.
We are a country of much ambivalence: we tout our national health care system, while at the same time, we permit the back-door access of the rich to private medical attention and care with impunity. We attract people from all around the globe, both to study our system, and to come to live here because of its reputation, while we all know that the funding provisions must be redesigned, so that the private clinics do not erode equal access to equal medical care for all our citizens.
This is not just a health care fight; it is a fight for the kind of country we want to leave our children and our grandchildren.
And by looking at both the Liberals and the NDP in the House of Commons, we are unable to see much fibre in their commitment to uphold and to enhance the public health care system.
Where are the unions in this fight? Where are the professional students of health care, of ethics, of medicine, and of the legal professions who are ready and willing to step up to the plate in defence of the public health care system?
Where is the next Tommy Douglas, or Shirley Douglas, or Stephen Lewis (of NDP and United Nations fame) needed to champion the cause of public health care? Are we going to permit the pharmaceutical industry to enhance its control, and the private "cherry-picking" doctors  to get rich through the provision of lucrative procedures, while the Harper neo-cons, who hold the power of the Canadian Cabinet, and whose political philosophy, supported by all the private corporations, is likely to side with the private clinics, and the pharmaceutical companies, and result in the erosion of the public system, "because we ran out of money" as their argument will go?
It is not that we will have run out of money; it is rather that we will have run out of political will, courage, imagination and conviction to fight for what Tommy Douglas fought for, and we have all benefited from, for the last half-century.
This battle is certainly one to put before all the candidates, of all the political parties during the next federal election campaign, expected within the next twelve months.

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