The New Year has begun with a few bumps in Canada:
1. Ontario physicians settled with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care just in time to have Ontario teachers take to the streets, offended by their treatment at the hands of government. Will this become a shell game for tax payers' dollars? Savings from one area simply redistributed to another?
2. Canada's First Nations groups are armed with drums, signs and anger about many things including living conditions on reserves and resource sharing. Will anybody recognize and acknowledge that the issues surrounding Aboriginal poverty are not as a result of lack of government money but due to lack of accountable self-governance and complex social problems?
3. Ontario's economy is still in a slump mired in deep debt and deficit. Will Premier McGuinty stop insisting that he has done a wonderful job as he walks out the door after proroguing legislature at the tail end of a spending spree legacy?
4. Alberta's economy is shuddering as energy prices hover and do not bring in the anticipated revenue for government to cover rising health care needs. Will this era drag Alberta down too? So much for relying on Alberta to keep Canada's economy on "full tilt ahead".
5. The Canadian trade deficit jumps as weak markets hit exports and the Feds struggle to reduce deficits. Will the vocal groups insisting that the Federal government bail out provinces for spending beyond their means in health care see the reality?
6. Alberta's inquiry into "queue-jumping" points to the reality that even people who can afford to pay for their MRIs or other types of care are forced to be dependent on a lagging public system. Will Abertans see the inquiry for what it is...a waste of time and energy?
7. Quebec stumbles with charges of corruption on building its major health facility while it can't even manage to keep its own paramedic supply sufficient to meet demand. Will the Quebec government open up more private health care options?
8. Saskatchewan is sitting pretty with oil and potash and a premier that supports entrepreneurial spirit but despite its best efforts hospitals are overcapacity. Will Brad Wall continue his use of private clinics to provide public services and will there be increased use of private options to improve access?
9. Maritime provinces face high unemployment and low levels of skilled labour and an aging population ahead of the rest of Canada. How will it maintain its health human resources and public health care infrastructure as times become more tough? Will oil be enough?
10. BC continues to lean on prevention as a way of reducing health care costs. Will it work? Will the benefits of more hospitable climate of the major cities mean longer lives and more social entitlement costs?
11. Manitoba lays no charges after patient dies in an ER in 2008 with a bladder infection. Does it have to be this hard to get access to care? and what does it say about our universal, accessible health care?
Lots of events point to the fragility of our current state, health care included.
It is important we have leaders at the helm who can see the problems, address them with honesty and avoid decision-making influenced by cheerleaders in their ranks.
Jeffrey Simpson writes in The Globe and Mail on January 11, 2013 about the "Inconvenient truth: We don't have the best health-care system".
He gives credit to Alberta's Fred Horne and Ontario's Deb Matthews for their honesty. He states that instead of telling the electorate that Canada's health care system is the best, they have started with "the truth".
Simpson may be right but Canadians still do not have the "whole" truth. Politicians shy away from telling the whole truth in part because it is not politically helpful to them but also because some of them still believe Canada's system is better than it is in reality.
According to Simpson, the Environics Institute has some significant findings on Canadian perspectives about its health care system. Simpson writes:
"What about private payment? The Institute asked whether Canadians should have the right to buy private health care - here comes the condition -"if they do not receive timely access to services in the public system"- and here comes another condition - "even if this might weaken the principle of universal access to health care for all Canadians because some people might have quicker access to services."
55% per cent said YES
43 percent said NO
Even more telling are the comments in response to the article. It seems that Canadians are becoming more aware that an alternative is needed to an overburdened public health care system that is not managing to provide necessary and timely access now let alone in the future.
We need as many solutions to finding increased access as possible. It is no longer feasible for Canadians to deny realities or for interest groups to insist Canadians keep their blinders on.
I hope that in 2013 more honesty about the need for a hybrid health care system can be supported and that more Canadians will understand the benefit of creating options for care beyond the core public health care programs that exist.
Cheers to 2013 and to all of you who have made and continue to make such valuable contributions here! Thank you.
I will post a link to Jeffrey Simpson's article in the comment section.