Canadian Medicare under threat

A legal battle before the courts in B.C., is being called “the most significant challenge in Canadian history.”

Dr. Duncan Etches of Canadian Doctors for Medicare answers questions during the public forum held at Riverside Centre on June 5.

Dr. Duncan Etches of Canadian Doctors for Medicare answers questions during the public forum held at Riverside Centre on June 5.

In September of this year, the B.C. Supreme Court will hear the case brought forward by Dr. Brian Day, owner of a Vancouver for-profit clinic.

The B.C. Health Coalition and Canadian Doctors for Medicare will be facing Dr. Day in court. They will be fighting to save Canada’s Medicare system. If Dr. Day wins his case in court, the Canadian Medicare system will be replaced by what is called a “US-style system.”

It is believed that the public health care system Canadians rely upon will be dismantled, leaving doctors to be able to set any price they want; costly private insurance policies will become the norm like in the United States where the cost of insurance for a family of four is $16,000 per year and public wait times increasing due to doctors and nurses leaving the public system to practice in the for-profit system.

The B.C. Health Coalition and Canadian Doctors for Medicare are asking that all Canadians become involved in helping to save the Canadian Medicare System.

They ask that you become aware – sign up at www.savemedicare.ca – keep up to date with the court case and help spread the word in your community.

The local group, Support Our Health Care (SOHC) have been doing what they can to promote the importance of the upcoming court case.

Through local media, SOHC have had information regarding the case published, they organized a rally in Veterans Square in March of this year and most recently, hosted a public forum at the Riverside Centre.

On Thursday June 5, approximately 60 residents attended the forum moderated by Area H director, Brad Hope.

With a welcome to all in attendance, director Hope extended his thanks, “I appreciate all of you coming out to show your support for this very important issue.” He then went on to introduce the three forum panelists including; Ed Staples, president of SOHC, Rick Turner, co-chair of the B.C. Health Care Coalition and Dr. Duncan Etches of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

Ed Staples gave a presentation on the history of Canadian Health Care including discussion on  Woodrow Lloyd, Tommy Douglas, John Diefenbaker, Justice Emmett Hall and Lester B. Pearson, all responsible for the founding principals of the Canadian Health Act.

Rick Turner and Dr. Duncan Etches both presented explanation of how the for-profit system would end up destroying the Canadian Medicare system.

It was explained that in 1996 the B.C. private clinics idea was brought in to speed up WCB cases, however it took on a life of its own. In British Columbia alone there are now 70 private clinics.

When asked what percent of B.C. doctors and nurses supported public health care vs private, Dr. Etches said, “I would guess that about half were strong supporters of the public health  care system and about half were interested in the financial opportunities of private.”

Doctors being overworked and money being wasted in the medical systems was a topic of discussion.  For example, it was stated that a phone call could come from the doctor instead of a patient having to drive all the way to Penticton for results.

Dr. Etches responded by explaining that, “The payment system needs to be looked at.” He went on to make further suggestions that could help the public health care system including; a triage system, more nurse practitioners, group health visits (for instance – diabetic care groups) and especially a “no brainer” method as he put it, – home care. People who can be cared for at home should be being cared for at home. “But the money needs to be invested to begin with,” he said.

A referendum was asked about from the floor, Rick Turner answered with, “Your opinion matters, we want you to tell us what you want.”

Helping to raise awareness about the case, speaking out publicly, hosting events are all ways that Canadians can help. Visit www.savemedicare.ca to learn more.

Thoughts on the forum were summed up eloquently by Ed Staples, “You are entitled to health care regardless of who you are, where you live or how much money you make.”