Dr. Brian Day @DrBrianDay Twitter

  • Past President Canadian Medical Association
  • Past President Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • Honourary Associate Professor University of British Columbia
  • 2014 Doctors of BC Don Rix Leadership Award

Private health care works

Oct 13, 2006

Neil Desai
Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman has stated the
election of B.C. doctor Brian Day as president of Canadian Medical
Association poses a "grave threat" to health care. Day's sin:
Providing health services outside the government Medicare system.
He offers sick patients an alternative to the government health
monopoly and long hospital waiting lines.

Smitherman's speech was mere posturing. Politicians of all stripes
have sung the single-tier health care song, including former
Ontario Premier Mike Harris and even Prime Minister Stephen Harper,
but the reality is this is just rhetoric.

Smitherman has attempted to paint Day, the CMA, other provinces
and federal Health Minister Tony Clement as antagonists because
they have taken steps (in some cases, the tiniest of steps) to
accept the private sector as a viable alternative to, and as a
vehicle to improve, the public health monopoly. And yet Ontario's
Liberal government has already adopted Mike Harris's public-private
hospital partnership plan.

Smitherman and Premier Dalton McGuinty continue to publicly deny
the private sector has any role in the future of Ontario's health-
care system. Yet their policies tell another story. Since taking
power in 2003, the McGuinty government has privatized long-term
care facilities and announced 30 public-private partnership
hospitals. Furthermore, the Liberal government has privatized
routine eye examinations and chiropractic services. This is a
promising start.

Simply claiming victory for the public system at photo
opportunities will not address Ontario's growing health-care
demands. Ontarians are in search of quality and affordable health
care delivered in an efficient manner.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the
Ontario government and its citizens spent $19-billion on private
sector health services in 2005.

"For years, we have been shadowboxing with often obscure voices
agitating for two-tier health care,' Smitherman says. This is an
absurd statement. The voices for reform are everywhere and include
the Supreme Court. Canada's high court kick opened the door last
year to expand private sector involvement in our health-care system
with its Chaoulli ruling.

The CMA has demonstrated it is moving forward trying to improve
the ailing Canadian health monopoly under the leadership of Day.
The election of Day does not pose a threat to the system. He brings
hope with new reform ideas and a fresh outlook on how to rebuild
the system so it can focus on patient care instead of political
rhetoric and bureaucracy.

It is time for the Liberals to publicly accept that privately
delivered health care has already contributed to renewing the
system and will have an even larger role in the future - for they
have already done so behind closed doors at the cabinet table.

Neil Desai is the Ontario Director for the Canadian Taxpayers