By Gloria Galloway and Lisa Priest, Globe and Mail, February 28, 2011
The Canadian Medical Association said Monday that public health care is in decline. Five million Canadians do not have a family doctor, emergency departments are congested, services for the mentally ill are lacking and many patients cannot afford the drugs they need or a bed in long-term care when it is the best option.
Jeff Turnbull, CMA president, called on the federal Conservative government to create a “Health Care Action Plan” to deal with health issues, much as it created an “Economic Action Plan” to tackle the downturn in the economy. Such a plan, he said, would make the system more effective and accountable.
With the health accord between the provinces and the federal government set to expire in three years, it is time for Ottawa to come off the sidelines and “show leadership once again to tackle the looming crisis in health care,” Mr. Turnbull said.
Danielle Martin, chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, said the notion that the health-care system is about to collapse under its own financial weight is unsubstantiated.
In fact, Dr. Martin said, the cost of basic physician and hospital care has remained stable as a percentage of Canada’s gross domestic product for the past 35 years. What has made health care more expensive, she said, is government spending on such things as public health, publicly funded dental care and prescription drugs.
The CMA is succumbing to concerns being expressed by provinces who say health-care spending is eating up a larger part of their budgets, Dr. Martin said.
But “if experience shows us anything, it’s that the parts of our health-care system that are paid for publicly are the parts where we have the greatest control over costs,” she said.
Both the CMA and Canadian Doctors for Medicare agree that making prescription drugs and long-term care more affordable and accessible would go a long way toward curing what ails the system.
Neat, Plausible and Wrong: The Myth of Health Care Unsustainability
Report by Canadian Doctors for Medicare - Feb. 28 2011
Download this file (.pdf)
Every Canadian would do well, a favour to themselves and a sign of solidarity for the country, to thank their doctor on their next visit for the courage, clarity and foresight of the profession in preparing this report.
We have all heard the cries from some doctors complaining about the loss of income and the socialization of medicine, (some have even left for the U.S. to practice "for-profit" health care, so vehement was/is their ideological criticism of the Canadian Health Act) and yet, here is the medical profession urging Ottawa to get off its hands and, with considerable urgency, create a pro-active strategy to restore sustainability to the plan.
Let's hope that the Canadian Medical Association does not hold its breath in expectation of this government's willingness to comply with their recommendation.
After all, with the economic recovery plan, the Harper neo-cons were playing directly to their constituency base, their corporate bankers and backers, whose profits were threatened. With the National Health Act, and funding its provisions in order to assure sustainability, the government would be working to support ALL Canadians, and not their political base. And this government is nothing if not fixated on the service of their narrow political base of votes. If for a single moment Harper believed that, by injecting both imagination and determination into the health care crisis, he would guarantee himself a majority in the next elecction, there is no doubt in anyone's mind he would be grabbing his political heart monitor, attaching his heart, mind and political cunning to the task...and his cabinet would be lectured on how the process would unfold.
However, in his headstrong, and single-minded purpose of moving the country to the right, there is no evidence that he will compromise his for-private principles and ideology for the sake of a few million Canadians ( most of whom without doctors probably also do not go to the polls) when he would rather put that effort and money into the purchase of fighter jets, or into lower corporate taxes for his political puppeteers.
We need to change governments, if the country seeks to put legs under the health care system, and, if there were an election this spring, and the Liberals (even with a few NDP in a coalition) were to come to power, Canadians could be more confident that the doctors prescriptions would be implemented.
Just another reason, among many, for Canadians to think deeply about where they mark their X on voting day.