Wednesday, 12 January 2011

No User Fees, Quebec Doctors' Group Says as Private Services Multiply

Quebec doctors are standing up for universal access to needed medical services in a way that the province's--and Canada's--politicians should. Not only did several physicians' groups come out strongly against user fees proposed last spring by the Charest government, this week Médecins québécois pour le régime publique decried the increasing use of extra fees in the province.

The latest attempts to get around restrictions which are supposed to make all medically needed services available at no charge include a new pediatric "concierge" service, Medisys 123. The users pay an annual fee for each child and are supposed to have access to advice on the telephone, 24/7 coverage, and other services. The provincial health authority is looking it to this, and has supposedly warned physicians that extra charges for this kind of service are illegal.

The problem, of course, is that this is another step toward a two tiered health system. Similar services actually are available in the public system--Info Santé offers 24 telephone advice and triage which our family has used more than once. For some reason--maybe because their advertising budget is too low--the service seems not well known. And if a private service competes, the pressure will be off to make the public service better known and well-funded.

Quebeckers have said that health is their biggest worry as 2011 begins. It's time for those who want to make our basically excellent system work to speak out.

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