QUEEN ELIZABETH HOSPITAL
By Edith Perry (guest opinion)
Regarding the issue of user fees charged by P.E.I. hospitals and other health service providers.
Recently someone informed me that a bill for several thousand dollars issued by an Island hospital has been waived. This was done only after the person underwent months of stress because it was completely unaffordable and after more then once trying to reach resolution. It was billed after one of the couple had to remain in hospital several weeks due to lack of personal care beds. Apparently this has been going on for several years.
Already under stress by the medical challenge they were suddenly facing, the billing was just one more and insensitive burden placed on them by our publicly funded health care system.
This situation and other forms of health-care user fees flies in the face of Canada’s public health-care system first established by the CCF Tommy Douglas government in Saskatchewan when that first ever socialist government in Canada brought in publicly funded hospitalization. At last people could access hospital care without worrying about the bill. Pay your taxes and using a hospital to have a baby or surgery or some other medical care would be paid for from public funds.
Not only is this couple and others being billed by hospitals these bills are eventually sent to collection agencies. You know, hospitals playing at being for — profit businesses.
We are also being told that many Islanders being billed try to find money to pay these off because they are frightened of having to deal with collection agencies. They are going into debt, selling something they really need and using whatever other means possible. This rather then being harassed by and enduring the stigma of having a collection agency on your back.
But what is even more offensive is governments — provincially and federally — knowing this is happening and worse shaping a system that people can no longer rely on as a public-funded one. One has to wonder, is this prelude for a move to private-for-profit hospitals, clinics and doctors’ practices?
User fees certainly point to this. Islanders, Canadians all, need to speak out loudly and now. Let’s not go back to the bad old pre- medicare days when one died rather then going to a hospital or doctor for care.
Edith Perry of Millview has received national recognition for commitment to political engagement and community activism.