Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Safe-guarding Single Payer, Universal Health Care: Quebec Chips Away While Canadians Say Health Care Is Their Number One Election Issue

There have been a flurry of stories about the future of the planned super hospital in Montreal which is supposed to combine major parts of the Université de Montréal’s teaching hospitals (the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, or CHUM.) In the works for 15 years, the new hospital's site in downtown Montreal was picked a good four or five years ago, but the project is advancing very slowly. Several doctors’ groups have begun again to argue about whether the site chosen is a good one. The latest news reported in La Presse and Le Devoir is that the public hospital will be surrounded by private clinics which will "compete" with the public facility or 'complement" it, take your pick.

Presumably the private clinics will be part of the universal health care system we have here. That is, the doctors and staff will bill Quebec Medicare for most services, as is often currently the case for services like radiology. Doing this is considered not a breach in regulations governing the health care system. But these doctors affiliated with these clinics often propose treatments not covered by the health plan—“advanced” lenses after cataract surgery are frequently pushed—which of course means more money for them. Almost certainly this would happen in the CHUM case, but what is even more troubling is that several former government members, including the last minister of health Philippe Couillard, have a financial stake in the new clinics.

The current provincial government should crack down this, but is highly unlikely to do so. Increased privatisation of the health system appears to have been on its agenda all along, even though a report calling for more clinics was whisked away last winter as soon as it was presented. The tactic seems to have been: we won’t talk about it now, and then we’ll go ahead and do it.

Shame, shame! as the official record of House of Commons’ debates would say. An Angus Reid poll on the weekend said that health care is the number one preoccupation of Canadians at large as they go into a federal election. It is time to come out strongly in defense of our generally excellent, single-payer, universal health care system—and then, once decent folk are elected federally and provincially, to act to strengthen it.


Anonymous said...

This does not answer my question on weather or not quebec has universal health care or not. :(

Mary Soderstrom said...

The answer is basically yes. Every resident--citizenn and officially recognized immigrant--in principle has access to a complete range of health services which are medically required. There ar no premiums: the system is financed by payroll taxes and from genral revenues. Some sorts of plastic surgery are not covered, however, and there can be wait times for non-life threatening situations.

The threat of privatization comes in two forms. One is the idea that people should be allowed to buy insurance for services that they might have to wait for. This could lead to chipping away at the public system to produce a two tier system.

The seond threat is that, contrary to the loud protestations of certain idealogues, private clinics are not more efficient or cheaper or better than public facilities and will not solve the wait time problems: see my more recent post on cataracts Feburary 3. 2009.