Friday, March 10, 2006

Key health questions

I've been hard on the Ontario government the last few days over tuition and subway expansion, so it's worth mentioning Health Minister George Smitherman had a bang-on letter in the Globe and Mail this morning.

It was responding to Ralph Klien's proposed health care reform/privatization in Alberta. It wasn't until I got to the end that I realized it was written by the Ontario Health Minister ('s communications flunky), and I was pleasantly surprised.

I can't find the letter online, so here's a few excerpts:

Alberta now proposes to blow a gaping hole in our belief structure, and it does so despite its own very real successes at reform within the public health care system.

It also does so with no real evidence that simply slapping a private label on health care will make it better, and in the face of compelling evidence that it will not.

It's George's last point that really made me nod my head, as it’s a point I've made myself many times when debating health care privatization with its supporters, and one I've yet to hear a good counterpoint to:

Here is the main question: If you don't have the cash to pay your way to the front of the line – and let's be honest here, very few of us do – how will your access to health care be enhanced if already scarce health-care professionals are being tempted to move over to a private system?

That's a very good question. Another point is that it's the best and brightest that will be lured to the private sector to care for the rich, leaving the unwashed masses with the rest. Let them eat cake, I suppose.

I don't pretend to have all the answers on this. Our health care system is in need of reform. But I think we do a lot more right than we do wrong, and there are some core principles we need to stick to.

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Mark Francis said...

Something that people don't also realize is that a private system can treat people faster because of the lower patient-doctor ratio is maintains. Due to the scarcity of doctors, this means that the doctor-patient load in the public system increases as a result.

fiddlefaddle said...

The only objective of Conservatives here in Alberta is now and has always been to privatize the system. If they have to do it a syringe at a time, have no doubt their primary commitment is privatization.
The "third way" sytem they've been hard selling for some time now is touted as a "European" system but apart from 'bandwagoning' advertising the reality is the Conservatives have been focused on the English system simply because it's the only system closest to the long term objective of privatized, American style medicine which, at this stage of the battle , can be shoved through the key hole on an uninformed public.
Conservatives in Alberta are no smarter than their federal counterparts and lack even a modicum of common sense. But they know the insurance industry are they're "pals" and insurancese is part of Conservative language.
The only salvation for the average Alberta citizen is a watchful and reactive Canadian public.