TheStar.com – opinion/editorial – Doctoring medicare
Aug 22, 2008.
For the second year in a row, the incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association has used his inaugural speech to the physicians’ annual convention to bash our public health-care system, vowing to fight for a parallel private one.
Dr. Robert Ouellet, who runs a string of private medical imaging clinics in Montreal, carried on the message preached last year by former president Dr. Brian Day, who owns the country’s largest private clinic in Vancouver. But Ouellet was even more relentless in his attack, calling for our health-care system to be “transformed” with a “healthy balance” of public and private health care. Doctors “should not be leaving it up to governments and insurance companies alone to decide where we stand on this issue.”
But governments are elected by Canadians and the vast majority of them continue to support our public health-care system.
Ouellet pointed to England, which did away with health-care waiting lists in five years after bringing in a parallel private health-care system. But a group of senior British doctors wrote to Day last year urging him and his colleagues not to go down a similar road to privatization, noting that health spending there has more than doubled since 1997. At the same time, waiting lists in the public system have gone up.
Ouellet maintains medicare is broken and can’t be fixed. But in an exhaustive 18-month examination of the Canadian health-care system in 2002, former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow concluded that existing problems can be fixed at reasonable cost.
Last week, the Ontario Association of Nurses wrote to federal Health Minister Tony Clement urging him to use his speech to the physicians’ convention to defend medicare against such attacks. Instead, he ignored the subject entirely.
There was a time when a federal health minister could be counted on to stand up for medicare. Now, with Clement and Prime Minister Stephen Harper heading into an expected fall election, will they remain oblivious to the health of medicare?
The CMA president’s ill-conceived crusade calls out for a strong response from our political leaders.