We need a dose of urgent courage to have a hard conversation about Canada’s healthcare system
2020-10-16 from theglobeandmail.com
Tony Fell is a retired financial executive and former board chair of the University Health Network. He is a fundraiser for the Cambie medical constitutional challenge.
In September, B.C.'s Supreme Court ruled that patients cannot access medically necessary diagnostic and surgical procedures through the private system. The ruling was a blow to Brian Day, the founding medical director of Vancouver’s Cambie Surgery Centre, who brought the original lawsuit against the province more than a decade ago. He was seeking to legitimize what was already the status quo in B.C.: having private clinics provide access to private medically necessary diagnostic and surgical procedures within the context of our present universal public health care system.
This ruling was a most disappointing result, and the fear-mongering narrative against Dr. Day may have had something to do with it. Critics claimed that he sought to imitate the U.S. health care system, which is of course incredibly complicated, egregiously expensive, fraught with corruption and leaves millions of Americans uncovered. But the suggestions that were weaponized to fight the Cambie case – that Dr. Day’s proposal would lead to the collapse of Canada’s universal public health care system, which is a core facet of our national identity, and that surgeons would abandon the public system and stampede to the private system – are pure bunk.
And ultimately, the court’s decision hurt Canadians. Indeed, the judge in the case himself acknowledged that British Columbians are waiting beyond the provincial government’s own maximum acceptable wait times for medically necessary procedures in the public system for serious and, in some cases, life-threatening conditions. British Columbia’s wait time performance, against its own benchmarks, is abysmal and, in recent years, has been getting worse, even apart from the pandemic. Yet, despite this overwhelming evidence of patient suffering, the court rejected even the possibility of a better way, which only confirmed that our courts risk becoming political, and that health care is indeed the third rail of Canadian politics – to the disservice of Canadians themselves.
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