While some election promises are excellent, some could endanger public system
- The Guardian (Charlottetown), 31 Mar 2023
- MARY BOYD, BARBARA BROOKINS, LEONARD GALLANT, TRACY ROBERTSON, AND DONNA GORMLEY COMMENTARY Mary Boyd is chair of the P.E.I. Health Coalition. Barbara Brookins is president of the P.E.I. Nurses Union. Leonard Gallant is president of CUPE. Tracy Robertson
The P.E.I. Health Coalition wants all four political parties to assure us that they will safeguard our public healthcare system if they form the next government. To do this, they must more clearly distinguish between what is public and what is private health-care delivery. Failing to do this confuses the public and leaves big gaps in their platforms.
While some promises are excellent, some could endanger the future of our public system.
Few Islanders want to or can afford to pay out of pocket for health care that is supposed to be protected by a universal public system. Our existing public health-care system covers medically necessary services and these must be safeguarded.
IMPERSONAL VIRTUAL CARE
It is shocking that a majority of the parties are promising more virtual health care whether under Maple, owned by Gaelin Weston’s Loblaws or other corporations. This corporate-owned private service is expensive and, even if government promises to cover those expenses, it is lining the pockets of private companies and their shareholders at the expense of Canadian taxpayers.
They also have your data. Our tax dollars barely pay for medically essential services. Why give those dollars to private corporations? It makes no sense.
Virtual care services are covered by the public healthcare system between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Virtual health-care delivery needs to be owned and delivered by the public system. The current use is expensive and impersonal. There is no replacement for a one-on-one visit with family doctors or other health professionals. This is true as well for mental health.
PHARMACARE AND PARAMEDICS
There is very little mention of Pharmacare in the party platforms. It is another issue that deserves more attention and needs more clarity. We know that a bi-lateral agreement was signed between the provincial and federal governments and that 61 new medical drugs were added to the formulary. This is important but it is not universal Pharmacare with national standards and equality across the country to assure the best possible medicines at no cost to the patient.
The serious shortcomings of our long-term care (LTC) systems were revealed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some provincial parties recognize this and are calling for more public LTC homes with the required number of daily hours, 4.1 per patient as well as national standards. P.E.I. currently does not have the required numbers. Some are promising more home care with sufficient support systems. We applaud this.
Privatized ambulance service could easily be remedied by investment that is public. It is publicly run in many provinces of Canada. On P.E.I., Medavie, a private company, not only runs the ambulance service but is also given more tasks that belong under the public system and under the care of health professionals who are trained for those responsibilities.
Use of paramedics in these areas encroaches on public health-care delivery. While ambulance workers do a marvelous job in their area, where does accountability for Medavie lie and where is the evidence that it is fulfilling the terms of its contracts?
The best way to solve the current crisis is to invest more money in the public system under its universal, singlepayer model. It beats paying public dollars to those seeking profits.
Privatization is the biggest overall threat, coupled with many people’s blurred understanding of what that really means.
Roy Romanov took on the private sector and asked them to show him the evidence that private delivery of health care is better and less expensive than public delivery. They could not do it. Private interests cherry pick the cheaper problems where they can make the most profit. In contrast, the public system handles the most complex, labour-intensive procedures that require the longest recovery.
Together, the parties offered many great ideas about improving the public system. There was strong support for wage increases for all, upgrading skills, improving health education and adding more nurse practitioners. Support for patients in ER, medical homes, increased training, free tuition for RCWS and LPNS, upskilling workers including RCWS, LPN, and RNS received strong support as well as expediting licensing for trained foreign professionals, free licensing for those who left the workforce and want to return part time, adding more seats in medical schools (although we are told that only 30.7 per cent of medical students are choosing family medical practice). More nurse practitioners and medical homes augur well for the future if they are under the public system.
Our public system is based on a single-payer model. A private corporation that pays doctors and nurse practitioners doesn’t fit. It endangers the future of health care because it undermines the public system and thus hurts people in the long term.
We applaud the warning by the Federal minister of health that he will claw back that money from the provinces. We do not favour suggestions that responsibility for health care be taken away from the democratically elected provincial government and placed solely in the hands of Health P.E.I. or a Crown corporation.
Finally, the views of patients and taxpayers seem to be pushed aside during this election campaign in favour of the “experts.”
Medicare belongs to the people of Canada and their voices and those of our dedicated health-care workers must come first.
Inflammatory warnings of “potential system collapse” frighten people and undermine confidence in public health care.
The many national and local suggestions for healthcare improvements should create hope, not fear.