Wait times for surgery and diagnostic scans are a continuing problem in B.C., and pressure on health care system is increasing. (Black Press files)

B.C. VIEWS: Private health care crackdown touches painful nerve

Many people are no longer prepared to suffer in silence

Responses are still coming in about my recent column on the B.C. NDP government’s effort to crack down on people paying for their own health care.

It seems many people are tired of waiting in pain while Canada maintains its socialist vision in the face of a surging senior population, rapid advances in medical technology and the collapse of the family doctor model.

Today’s medical school graduates are reluctant to set up an office and plug into a pay-per-visit system where patients must be run through quickly in order to cover the overhead. Some doctors put up signs warning patients to discuss only one problem per visit, the very opposite of holistic health care.

Some doctors take shifts at a walk-in clinic to avoid the 365-day demands of a family practice, in a society where people are taught that the government must solve all problems. The annual rush of influenza-infected people into our overcrowded emergency rooms is but one example.

“As a retired family doctor, I despair at anything changing for many more years,” a Vancouver Island reader writes. “I really fear for my grandchildren as the tsunami of grey-haired Canadians overwhelms the resources that our government is willing to commit.”

Others cling to the old U.S. comparison. “Tom, why don’t you do Canadians a favour and move to Trump territory,” advises another reader.

Fortunately, not everyone is trapped in this blind alley. Several readers pointed to the World Health Organization’s ranking of national health systems, which currently has Canada in 30th place. The good news is we are ahead of the U.S., which is number 37 despite a vastly greater total expenditure on health care.

The top 20, in order of performance: France, Italy, San Marino, Andorra, Malta, Singapore, Spain, Oman, Austria, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Monaco, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ireland and Switzerland. The common feature is a mix of public and privately funded care.

Here is how now-Health Minister Adrian Dix put his position to me 10 years ago: “What we do here in Canada, it seems to me, is we combine social justice and administrative efficiency.” Regarding efficiency, see list above. And “social justice” is NDP code for sticking it to the rich, or pretending to. Dix hasn’t changed, but the world has.

One angry reader informs me that there is a Vancouver hospital that posts the cost of emergency visits. Somehow this negates my argument that our system doesn’t know its costs, because Canada is one of the last countries in the world that still funds hospitals in a single block payment.

Ottawa enforces this system, with Dix its enthusiastic cop. Extra-billing audits are underway at six private clinics, with the total amounts to be deducted from federal transfer payments to B.C., and fines plus repayment to be imposed starting this fall. All essential service must be paid by the B.C. Medical Services Plan, soon to be funded by a job-killing payroll tax.

The tide may be changing. Seeing the federal-provincial legal machine stretching out Vancouver surgeon Brian Day’s case to extend a 2005 Quebec win to B.C., a judge adjourned to allow Day to fundraise. The Canadian Constitution Foundation has taken on the project.

As Beverley McLachlin, now retired as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, wrote in the Quebec decision: “Access to a waiting list is not access to health care.”

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

How many volunteers does it take to run a hockey team?

Meet the momma bears who make the Revelstoke Grizzlies’ games happen

Niedermayer jersey retirement ceremony a dream come true

Penticton minor hockey players bring home memories of a lifetime from Niedermayer jersey retirement

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

UPDATE: Tractor trailer overturned on Highway 3A near Yellow Lake

Drivers may be wise to plan an alternate route as crews will need to recover the truck

Highway one will be closed tomorrow for avalanche control near Golden

The closure is expected to last for two hours

Branching out: learning to ski at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

It’s the first time at the hill for the editor of Revelstoke Review

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Larch Hills junior skiers top Teck BC Midget Championships

Multiple top-five finishes contribute to aggregate team trophy

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

Pool plans disappoint Shuswap swim clubs

Salmon Arm mayor assures options for city rec centre only preliminary

Vehicle fire on Coquihalla near Kamloops

A large plume of smoke could be seen rising into the sky over Highway 5

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

Most Read