Thursday, 23 April 2009

Private Health Care Is Better? Case at Dr. Chaoulli's Clinic Suggests Otherwise

It’s time to ask more questions about the increased involvement of the private sector in Canada’s health care system. Dr. Jacques Chaoulli and his health clinic came under fire yesterday in a coroner’s report into the death of man more than a year ago in the clinic’s waiting room. The training of clinic staff as well as its equipment appeared not to be up to standard while Dr. Chaoulli’s conduct—he did not attempt to reanimate the man—is a subject of an inquiry by the provincial body regulating doctors.

Dr. Chaoulli, you’ll remember, challenged Canada’s single-payer, universal health care system all the way to the Supreme Court, opening the door to the establishment of private health care in certain cases. Chaoulli and others argue that competition from the private sector will increase access and lower costs, a contention that is challenged by many health experts.

Certainly in this case it doesn’t look like Chaoulli’s clinic provided the kind of excellent health care proponents of privatization vaunt. Without a doubt members of the victim’s family must be asking what would have happened had he gone to a hospital emergency room where triage teams are trained to quickly size up a situation. It’s doubtful that a man turning blue would be told to sit and wait on a chair: while there's no doubt that it can take hours for non-urgent cases to be seen, life-threatening cases are evaluated and treated quickly in hospitals, observers agree.


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lagatta à montréal said...

Oh dear, Mary, you have a spammer.

I am deeply shocked by this story; perhaps the man couldn't have been saved by prompt attention, but any emergency ward would have tried - as would have an old-fashioned family doctor in the bad old days before socialised healthcare.

Dr Chaoulli's practice seems to be an example of the worst aspects of privatisation and certainly no glowing example of the much-touted flexibility and individual attention advocates of privatisation claim.

It is very sad that this man died in such a way, without attention or due care, but I do hope this will make it more difficult for Dr Chaoulli to get a hearing.

I'm looking forward to Dr Khadir continuing to speak out in the National Assembly against such cupidity and cynicism. I think it is possible to do so in a manner that respects the victim of this gross failure to care.

Joe - foreign film reviewer said...

If Dr. Chaoulli is at fault for this man's awful death, then his clinic deserves to go out of business. Let's not punish the other outstanding doctors who run private clinics just because one individual didn't have his act together.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Maria, don't know how to get rid of the spam, but now I've decided to moderate the comments to avoid the garbage like the first comment.

And, Joe, this man must be held to a higher standard because he set out to undermine Canada's universally accessible, single-payer system. In Canada, most doctors are not employees of the Medicare system, but are in private practice. Their medical acts are billed to the provinicial health plan, which leads both to must more equitable health care and enormous savings and admmimistration costs. Chaoulli argued all the way to Canadian Supreme Court that private health care could provide better service. The Supreme Court decided that for certain specific things--cataract surgery was one--plans had to be set up to allow private insurance when waiting times were too long.

This is the thin edge of the wedge Waiting time for cataract surgery in Quebec have dramatically dropped because the PUBLIC system was improved. Nevertheless health service companie and certain practitioiners want to get into for-profit medicine and are slowly but surely gnawing away at the system: see the report of the Canadian Health Care Coalition