Snitching Won’t Help Fix Health-Care Problems

Media Appearances, Healthcare & Welfare, Frontier Centre

“Attention, union brothers and sisters, comrades all in the labour movement, listen up because it’s time to start ratting out on your doctor, hospital, clinic or any other enemy of the state who dares to charge for keeping you alive. The Berlin Wall of the Canada Health Act is being breached and dissidents who dare to usurp our workers-paradise dream of universal mediocre medicare must be exposed.”

OK, maybe I’m pushing the envelope a bit, but the above is my take on a recent press release from the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

In the release, the unions say, “Our public health-care system is being eroded by privatization in new ways and at an ever-increasing pace.

For-profits and their allies in government and the courts are finding new inroads for private insurance, for for-profit delivery and two-tier access, working around and sometimes in direct violation of the law.”

The story goes on to say that medically necessary services, whether received at a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic, should be 100-per-cent paid for by government. Canadians who think their health-care rights have been violated are urged to contact a union website and write their MP as well as federal Health Minister Tony Clement.

What a self-serving crock of union drivel.

Let me begin my critique by saying the public health-care system in Canada is being eroded by its many inefficiencies, not by those who seek care outside the system, or by facilities, or practitioners who charge extra.

Plus, the union’s reference to for-profit health care being aided by the courts is not only contemptuous but also a critical reminder of the Supreme Court decision Chaolli v. Quebec.

In the landmark Chaolli ruling, the court concluded, “Access to a waiting list is not access to health care.”

And that, my dear friends in the labour movement, is the crux of our Canadian health-care problem.

In Canada, we think we’re doing well on the health-care front.

We’re not.

Most measurements, such as those by the OECD, or a recent report by the Winnipeg Frontier Centre for Public Policy, conclude that Canada ranks around 30th in accessibility when compared to health-care programs in other developed countries.

Indeed, the Winnipeg Centre says, “Canada spends more money to achieve poorer results.”

Nationally, we spend $5,000 a person on health care and in B.C. the health budget takes around 40 cents of every tax dollar.

That’s a lot of money just to have access to a wait list.

And encouraging Canadians to run out and report those who attempt to cover off some of the high cost of medical care — care intended to keep you healthy — seems mean spirited to say the least.

Let’s face it, if the Canadian health-care system was all it was supposed to be, or all CUPE or the CFNU wanted it to be, there would be no need for private-care providers. No need for WorkSafeBC to pay for third-party care. No need for Blue Cross to provide extended-care coverage.

In a perfect CUPE world, private-care providers like the False Creek, Cambie Street, or Prince George surgical centres wouldn’t have any patients. They’d be out of business.

But this is not a perfect world. There is no one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter remedy for providing health care to all Canadians for all our ailments. We must acknowledge and accept every public and private-care health-care opportunity that’s out there.

I do though have a suggestion for CUPE and the CFNU. Collectively, they have a national membership of 800,000.

That amounts to a lot of clout and a substantial dues-funded bank account.

In Canada we have some truly alarming health issues; like obesity and its inherent outcomes such as diabetes and cardiac disease. Next, throw in drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse.

So, how about taking some of that union-coffer dough and instead of setting up a rat line, what about a help line? In total, more than three-quarters of a million Canadians belong to CUPE and the CFNU.

Do any of them have a weight or substance-abuse problem? Actually, I know a few who do.

Accordingly, I would suggest to many CUPE and CFNU friends that they get out of my face and instead of telling me to fink on someone who’s helping me stay alive, it would serve them well to get off their fat union coffers and help some of their members who have problems.

Develop a good-health awareness program. Advertise diet and exercise tips.

Above all, remember: no matter how noble you see your cause, denying anyone health-care treatment is not a cure.

Bruce Strachan is a former B.C. cabinet minister and Prince George city councillor.