Harper can fix long wait times with funding

Harper can fix long wait times with funding

Postby Oscar » Sat Dec 08, 2007 4:07 pm

As reported in a CanWest News story that ran in more than a dozen newspapers yesterday, (Dec. 4.07) Dr. Brian Day, the head of the Canadian Medical Association, admitted that he had "jumped the queue" twice, once for a CT scan for his daughter and a second time for himself when he needed knee surgery.

A letter to the editor in response to this news by Health Care Campaigner Guy Caron was printed in today's (Dec. 5.07) Ottawa Citizen, The Edmonton Journal, and the Montreal Gazette:

Harper can fix long wait times with funding

The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Re: I jumped the queue, top doctor, Dec. 4.

Dr. Brian Day, president of the Canadian Medical Association, makes the argument that there shouldn't be surgical wait times in "a rich country, that's got a booming economy, that's got taxes going down." He misses the point that if the federal government can afford to lower taxes -- for individuals and for corporations -- it should be able to find money to invest in public wait time solutions.

These investments would include schooling and training for more doctors and nurses to ease shortages across the country. Investments could also be made into public programs like the Richmond hip and knee program in British Columbia that has seen wait times dramatically reduced by centralizing wait lists and offering dedicated operating times. Programs like this could be adapted in hospitals across Canada.

Public solutions are there. Unfortunately, political leadership is not.

The Stephen Harper government refuses to offer a national vision, and has done little to encourage progress on wait time issues. Instead, the government is deferring to provinces to fix wait times.

In British Columbia where Dr. Day operates two private, for-profit clinics, Health Minister George Abbott recently spoke out in favour of increased privatization and Dr. Day's scheme to have the government pay private clinics like his to perform surgeries to reduce wait times.

As the Citizen article rightly points out, this is a scheme that has been tried -- and abandoned -- in Britain. Private clinics led to higher costs and poorer health outcomes. The British government has now refused to contract any more surgeries to private clinics. Public hospitals have been shown to be the most cost-effective, efficient and reliable in reducing wait times. The federal government can show leadership on this issue by supporting them.

Guy Caron,
The Council of Canadians
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