Maybe it’s because I grew up taking certain things for granted that I’m so quick to defend what I consider an inalienable right for Canadians. Like some Americans feel the need to defend their right to bear arms, I feel the need to defend the right of all Canadians to have equal access to a national health care program.
I have watched politicians for the past twenty years steadily eroding the abilities of doctors, nurses, and the entire health care system to offer the quality of service that we are used to. Then these same politicians have the gall to turn around and tell us that public health care doesn’t work anymore.
They have decided that there are more important things than fulfilling the spirit and promise of the Canada Health Act. What is more important than providing quality health care to a population?
In my opinion, there is nothing more important. They claim that there is no money for the system. Yet, they claim to be running a surplus every year. What good does that do the people of Canada when it comes at the expense of our health care system? How many people are going to have to die because of wait times for essential surgery?
In 2002 Roy Romanow released his long awaited report on the status of health care in Canada. He had been asked by then Prime Minister Jean Chretien to head up the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada.
Going form city to city, province to province, Mr. Romanow listened to what the people of Canada had to say on the matter. Not to many people’s surprise, except for the private health care advocates, the majority of Canadians wanted the national health care system revitalized and were opposed to any sort of system that allowed for both private and public insurance.
In a nutshell, Mr. Romanow’s report stated that the government had to be prepared to pump additional monies into the system, basically restore levels of funding back to their original amounts, and make up for previous years of under-funding through upgrades in equipment and specially earmarked funds for the hiring of more staff.
To date, the response has been less than what one could even pass off as a minimum. They say they are committed to reducing wait times for procedures, but one seriously starts to doubt that commitment when the province I live in is laying-off nurses.
I live in a mid-size city of about 170,000 people. Currently it is impossible to get a family doctor for people just arriving in the city. We are not unique, in fact it is even worse in some of the more remote communities.
While there have been some advances made in the reduction of wait times, one wonders what other area of the health care system is suffering because of those modifications. The amounts of money announced by the federal government have come nowhere near approaching what was recommended by the Romanow Report as a bare minimum required, and that was almost three years ago.
When Tommy Douglas, grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland, introduced Medicare in the province of Saskatchewan in 1961 it was with the goal of providing inexpensive, publicly run, geared-to-income medical insurance. He believed that all people were entitled to equal access to equal medical care no matter their social standing.
When the Canadian government decided to emulate this program and created the Canada Health Act, it was to guarantee that right to every Canadian citizen. Barely thirty years after we were given that right, we are faced with the specter of politicians doing their best to whip it out from under us.
Not a month goes past when some conservative think-tank or other doesn’t release a study showing how badly off we are under the current system. The only cure, we are told, is to switch away from public funding. What these same pundits seem to forget is that it was their economic policies that destroyed public health care in the first place.
By convincing governments to slash spending on social programming and lower the personal income tax of high earners, they decimated the funding base required to maintain the system. It is time for the voices of the people who told Roy Romanow they wanted public health care to be heard.
We must challenge the politicians who claim to represent us to live up to what we were promised as our right. They do not have the authority to strip us of what their predecessors guaranteed. It is time to say we will not stand by and idly watch them sabotage one of the few good things to ever come out of parliament.