Canada can, should do better when it comes to health care

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Health Care

Guest Opinion

To: Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Egmont MP, regional minister for P.E.I.

On Nov. 25, 2014 the Canadian Health Coalition organized a meeting between many MPs and their constituents on Parliament Hill. We were there to discuss health care and had brought Islanders from the Atlantic to meet with you.

We wanted to share information that we thought you would find important about the status of health care from the point of view of people living and working in your community, one of whom is a health care worker.

Unfortunately you were unable to meet with us again this year and in your stead, you sent Steven Outhouse, an unelected staffer who has been criticized in the past for his “indignant, trashing comments” recently directed at the Canadian Medical Association (Diablogue, April 2013).

We were taken aback by the lack of respect and the aggressive response we received from Mr. Outhouse. As concerned citizens, health care workers, a recipient of the Order of Canada, and those engaged in our communities we expected a polite conversation where we could exchanged concerns and ideas. We did not expect an attack from a government representative on our concerns and our character.

Ms. Shea, we have watched your government abdicate their responsibility for health care and we have witnessed the deterioration of the care available to Islanders. We’re worried about those who are unable to access services, who are denied services because they’re unprofitable, who struggle to meet their needs each day. The federal government has transferred responsibility and accountability for health care onto the shoulders of provinces and then uses those provinces as a scapegoat.

Under the Canada Health Act, the federal government is responsible for ensuring Canadians have access to public health care no matter where they live, their income, or their age. But Mr. Outhouse made it clear to us that the federal government isn’t interested in this watchdog role and would rather move forward an agenda supporting private, for-profit health care initiatives subsidized by the public purse.

We have decades of research showing that for-profit care costs Canadians more money while delivering fewer services. It also often violates the Canada Health Act by cherry picking the healthy and wealthy patients and leaving the more complicated and chronically ill to a then underfunded public health care system. We brought independent and peer-reviewed research for both European and Canadian sources showing these findings to share with you, but Mr. Outhouse wasn’t interested in the facts. Instead, he continued to talk political ideology.

Ms. Shea, we travelled to Ottawa to tell you that Islanders are having trouble finding the care they need, when they need it. The province is challenged to find the financial resources needed to maintain and improve our health care system. The evidence and research needed to create a stronger health care system is widely available. Many of the innovations such as pharmacare and full-scope practices would save our system tens of billions of dollars a year. We can improve the financial sustainability of Medicare, but we need federal leadership, commitment and initial investment.

We’re asking your government to return some of the funding you’re cutting from the Canada Health Transfer. In December 2011, then Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty announced a cut to the CHT that will take the once 50 per cent cost sharing arrangement of the federal government for health care to a shockingly low 18 per cent. This means provinces like P.E.I. will have to fund 82 per cent of health care costs on our own.

With a smaller GDP than larger provinces and a rapidly aging population, we cannot guarantee the same access to services.

While the dollar figures certainly matter the amount of funding by the federal government also directly impacts your ability to enforce the Canada Health Act. When provinces and territories are found in violation of the Act, you are suppose to withhold funding from them. But the less funding you give, the less your enforcement will deter unlawfulness.

Lastly, equitable federal funding for health care means you can tie health spending to the attainment of national benchmarks and standards. This would ensure that no matter where health care services are delivered, people are guaranteed the same access and quality of care. This is something Islanders are desperately in need of as we watch our wait times grow and our requirement for home and long-term care increase.

Ms. Shea, Canada can and should do better. Islanders deserve the same access to treatment as obtained by the residents of other provinces and territories. We hope you will reconsider meeting with us in the future and if you should be unavailable to meet with us, we hope you will send someone that is willing to listen and be respectful.

With concern,

Mary Boyd, P.E.I. Health Coalition;

Leo Broderick, Council of Canadians;

Winnie Fraser-Mackay, P.E.I. Seniors’ Secretariat and National Pensioners Federation;

Joanne Turner, Community Health Worker,


Adrienne Silnicki, Canadian Health Coalition

Organizations: Canadian Health Coalition, Canadian Medical Association, P.E.I. Health Coalition National Pensioners Federation Community Health Worker

Geographic location: Canada, Atlantic, Ottawa

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