If you get close enough to a hospital in Canada right now, you can almost hear it straining under the pressure of the last two years or more. The combination of a global pandemic, exhausted doctors and nurses, and an increasingly uncaring public has pushed our public health care system to the brink and, in some cases, exceeded it.
So far, that has resulted in the closure of emergency rooms across the country, including in major centers like Ottawawith the perspective of more interruptions to come. As Dr. Deepa Soni tweeted“23 years as EM [emergency medicine] doctor and I had never seen things as bad as in the last few months… with no signs of letting up.
For most Canadians, this is an absolute disaster. But for some, the slow-motion collapse of our healthcare system is the moment they’ve been waiting for, and they’re ready to jump. After years of seeing their efforts to introduce more private activity into the health system rebuffed, advocates of private medicine now find a more receptive audience in a general public that cannot count on the system. And make no mistake: the politicians who support private medicine intend to take advantage of it.
When asked if her province would consider allowing more private activity in the health care system, Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones said, “All options are on the table.” A few days earlier, former British Columbia Premier Christy Clark made an impassioned case for such options at a appearance about him Real talk with Ryan Jespersen podcast. “If provinces were allowed the freedom to innovate in health care, to allow more private care into the system, then it would be much cheaper in the first place. And second, I think competition would improve the public health system. The only thing worse than a monopoly is a government monopoly, and that’s what we have in health care.”
First, it is not entirely clear that private care would be “much cheaper”. At this time, nurses from private agencies are being used to fill vacancies in the Ontario system, and can cost up to four times what a nurse earns on the public payroll. Private healthcare enthusiasts talk a lot about cutting costs and increasing efficiency, but the actual evidence is much less convincing.
In 1996, Conservative Premier Mike Harris justified the privatization of Ontario’s long-term care and home care system on the grounds that base that it would be “better, faster [and] cheaper.” Instead, as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic revealedthose for-profit facilities made decisions that put the lives of their residents at far greater risk than public long-term care homes.
But the question we need to ask ourselves right now is not whether private health care can help save the public system. It is if those who defend you are trying to break the public system to make their case. After all, people won’t let you fix something if they don’t agree it’s broken, and conservative politicians and pundits have been trying to convince Canadians of that for years. If you want to be cynical, you could say that with COVID-19, they saw an opportunity to add even more stress to an already overburdened health care system.
That might help explain why Canada’s provincial governments, the vast majority of which are run by Conservative parties, seemed to alligator arms at the help offered by Ottawa. A 2021 report of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives suggested that there were billions in unspent federal grants and spending for health care and other COVID-related support, while last July, the Ontario Fiscal Responsibility Officer revealed his province had spent less than its forecasts by $7.2 billion.
It could also help explain why so many conservative politicians and pundits opposed mask and vaccine mandates, even as that opposition contributed to the defeat of the Conservative Party of Canada in the 2021 election. It’s hard to imagine a government coming up with new mandates. now, even if the next wave of the pandemic is particularly unpleasant. Public health officials may have won the battle to vaccinate people, but they have lost the war when it comes to their willingness to put up with other public health restrictions.
That’s bad news for a healthcare system already cracking under the pressure of the pandemic.
Opinion: Before we change Canada’s #HealthCare system, we need to make sure the people in charge of solutions don’t have their hearts and wallets in the same place. @maxfawcett writes for @NatObserver.
If we’re lucky, that tension will serve as a wake-up call for lawmakers and politicians, leading to a long-awaited national conversation about what we want from the health care system and what we’re willing to pay to get it. it’s.
To be better than the United States is to condemn with the slightest praise, and there are many ways Canada’s system can and should improve. As President of the Canadian Medical Association Katharine Smart said, “What is clear is that the status quo is not the way forward. We should not be afraid of change, we desperately need it.”
Still, we must beware of people who are more than happy to capitalize on that desperation. As the last two years have shown, they may even be willing to increase it. Before we make changes to a health care system that Canadians hold dear, we need to make sure that the people proposing solutions don’t have their hearts and wallets in the same place.