LIBERAL HEALTHCARE DUPLICITY, An Ontario Overview 2003 - 2007
By Roman Bobak
(click on photo to enlarge)
The province can’t “do it all.”
- Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman, St. Catharines Standard, Aug.11, 2005
“For the public good, consumer choice in healthcare should no longer be banned, accursed, and derided. It should be reclaimed as every individual’s intrinsic right.”
- Roman Bobak, St. Catharines Standard, Sept.6, 2006
“For years, we have been shadow-boxing with often obscure voices agitating for two-tier healthcare.” - George Smitherman, Ottawa Citizen, Sept.11, 2006
For years, citizens of Ontario have been brow-beaten, our voices suppressed by obtuse government minds who force their failed socialist dogma upon us.
Reading the Feb.25, 2006 Toronto Sun editorial (above left) “No French? The doctor is not in” reminded me of a column, “Health Care on the minds of many people” (above right), written by St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley, (Niagara News, Nov.23, 2005)
In the Sun, a Liberal government spokesman defends Shirley Ravary’s victimization to an Ontario clinic’s “No French, no service” healthcare policy claiming it was “not a typical clinic or doctor’s office”, but a “community organization” that “offers healthcare to a specific population that has had difficulty receiving health services”. Similarly, Tourism Minister Bradley wrote in Niagara News that three Liberal-proposed Niagara Community Health Centres are “for everybody, but geared towards those who do not or cannot gain access to healthcare services due to various barriers, such as physical disability, poverty, geographic isolation and language”.
Will Niagara’s new publicly funded “community” clinics also have “language” (or other exclusionary barriers that aren’t “for everybody”) that the healthcare-seeking public should first know about? Don’t the groups mentioned by Bradley already have ‘universal access’ to Ontario healthcare?
We’ve all heard the line that ‘millions of Americans have no health insurance’ which is often used by the left as a red-herring to justify the ‘superiority’ of our fictitious ‘one-tier system’, yet, in Ontario over a million people can’t even find a doctor – even though we have OHIP insurance! Why didn’t Bradley reveal exactly how many of Niagara’s population at the time (2005) supposedly “cannot gain access to healthcare”, which was his justification to build these new Niagara CHCs?
If Bradley’s “key priority is to increase access to primary care” then why was Ravary denied healthcare access at this specially sanctioned, French-only, exclusionary CHC? Is that not two-tier? Was she supposed to find and wait in an English-only emergency ward somewhere else around Cornwall? What criteria do Liberals use to determine that a person is or is not Francophone in order to receive publicly-funded healthcare: is there a linguistic test, a genetic test, or other pre-qualification screening which a potential patient must undergo? The National Post (Mar.2, 2006) reported on that there’s even an Ontario clinic that discriminates on the basis of skin colour and gender. Is that not two-tier?
Can the Liberals explain under what special conditions a “typical” publicly funded clinic is not a public, universally accessible clinic? Is our OHIP card conditionally invalid at certain Ontario publicly funded clinics? Do Liberals believe in equality, or egalitarianism, when it comes to healthcare delivery?
Bradley’s proposed CHCs seem to be glorified Liberal social service centres tumbled with a medical component. Will they simply become the regional franchises of the new LHIN bureaucracy, which itself seems like a half-baked Liberal knock-off of an American HMO (minus the accountability)? Whose budget will be subsidizing Bradley’s “non-profit” panoply of support groups, counselling, social work, workshops and unspecified “many other” CHC programs? Aren’t such outreach programs already available and accessible as outpatient programs within hospitals? In an Apr.13, 2007 letter to the City of St. Catharines, Bradley quoted Smitherman claiming “CHC’s offer treatment for total mind, body and social care”. How wonderful!
Will the new government-appointed LHIN ‘local’ board become another firewall to insulate the local MPP and his government from actual accountability? Looks like it’s already started. In Antonella Artuso’s July 7, 2006 Toronto Sun story, Hampton blasts Liberal propaganda, the NDP leader called a $70,000 LHIN flyer mail-out a “huge waste of money”, “pre-election advertising” and “propaganda right out of the mouth of George Smitherman”. The telling response was when Smitherman’s spokesman David Spencer said the local LHIN made the decision to send the material. So: the firewall is complete - no one is held accountable. If there’s a fault, the LHIN becomes a convenient scapegoat. If there’s praise, well obviously it’s due to wise Liberals, whose government appoints and funds the LHINs. As for the CHCs, CH Television reported on July 17, 2006 that none are being built in Niagara. Then, the St. Catharines Standard reported on Dec. 7, 2006 that one is scheduled to be open by 2009, somewhere in St. Catharines. 2009?!? Can Bradley, who promised it will be built “by 2007”, move any slower? What about all those Niagarans who supposedly can’t gain access to healthcare, according to Bradley…do they just have to wait several more years, while Bradley and his majority government make, then break, more promises?
In a Nov.1, 2000 St. Catharines Standard article Bradley dismissed “American-style two-tier healthcareRavary, perhaps out of the building?
Why favour the monopoly status-quo?
On Jan.27, 2006 Antonella Artuso’s Toronto Sun column, "Aid to nursing ills", reported that the Liberals set up a 40 million dollar trust fund ostensibly to train nurses. Why is this cash to be “controlled by nursing groups”? Specifically who administers this “trust” and under what terms and conditions? Are only unionized nurses eligible beneficiaries? Is any independent individual or public body overseeing this money? Will the financial details of this trust’s activities be publicly audited and posted?
It’s understandable for the Registered Nurses Assoc. of Ontario's Doris Grinspun, after this windfall, to be “delighted” that “McGuinty and Smitherman are listening to nurses” – her vested interest group, lobbyists who are clearly opposed to healthcare choice, just benefited from the consequent shortages caused by monopoly healthcare. But are McGuinty and Smitherman listening to those doctors, patients and taxpayers who see the failings of monopoly healthcare?
Grinspun has long crusaded against private healthcare: “We reject the claims of the few that for-profit delivery will cure what ails medicare”. She cited Dr. P.J. Devereux, fear mongering that “If Canada were to move hospitals to for-profit delivery, we would witness 2,000 more deaths.” (National Post, Feb.22, 2006) Wouldn’t someone be held to account if that were to occur? Is she attributing criminal negligence in any of the deaths she cites?
Grinspun didn’t provide statistics on the actual number of deaths caused within the current monopoly system she advocates. The Toronto Sun’s Kevin Connor reported on Jan.26, 2006 that “as many as 24,000 patients die preventable deaths in hospitals every year because of caregivers’ mistakes, according to a study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.” Is anyone in the public system being held to account for those deaths? Grinspun made the case that there is no nursing shortage in Ontario: “We refuse to feed into the nursing shortage. How can we have a shortage when thousands of nurses are looking for work?” (St. Catharines Standard, May 15, 2004) She also asked: “Why should anyone make money on the illness of people?...For profit facilities will bankrupt the system.” Ouch – do many of her members work for free? Interestingly, the National Post wrote on Jan.14, 2005, “Grinspun says Ontario already suffers from a shortage of 6,000 nurses”. (What?…but just seven months earlier, she was refusing "to feed into the nursing shortage"...!!)
Grinspun demands “not a single nurse can be laid off without the government signing off. It’s the job of the premier to protect these nursing jobs.” (St. Catharines Standard, May 12, 2005) In Grinspun’s world, doctors and hospitals have too much influence and power over medicare spending. “Why? Because when they scream, the money goes there.” (St. Catharines Standard, Aug. 11, 2005) Grinspun claimed on her website, June 28, 2005, that care at for-profit hospitals (which ones wasn’t clear, were they in Canada?) cost 19% more than at non-profit hospitals. But doesn’t profit help sustain and carry forward an accountable enterprise, while also providing the government tax revenue? (She repeated the same figure in a National Post letter Mar.21, 2007) Grinspun wrote (National Post, Aug.10, 2005) that we should be “slowly but surely rebuilding and reforming the healthcare system”. Which sounds innocuous until you ask reform into what? Haven’t 40 years worth of Tommy Douglas’s nebulous healthcare incantations been enough of a warning about the evident evils of socialized government monopoly healthcare? Grinspun’s version of “slowly rebuilding” (only in her system do ‘healthcare’ and ‘slowly’ make perfect sense) is evident when she oddly claims: “In 40 years we can privatize and bankrupt medicare.” (St. Catharines Standard, Jul.31, 2004) Linking bankruptcy, a free-market concept, to the unsustainable socialist concept of medicare, is interesting, but isn’t it rather that, after 40 years, medicare is bankrupting us? Ontario’s Liberal budget of Mar. 2007 dumped $37.9 billion (42% of all government spending) into just the health ministry, and critics still claim it’s not enough.
When RNAO president Joan Lesmond wrote on Dec.9, 2005 in the Toronto Star about some unnamed “physicians who milk the public system for private profit”, one could certainly ask: doesn’t her group “milk the system” as well?
In a Mar.17, 2006 Toronto Star letter, "Reorganization medicare assault", union boss Leah Casselman wrote: “yes, healthcare is expensive, but adding a return on an investment to shareholders doesn’t make it any less expensive”. This clever piece of unionist deception fails to ask: does it make healthcare more sustainable, more effective, more accountable, or more responsive, to patient needs? When Ontario was still deciding whether to join medicare, Crown Life chairman C.F. Burns said: “The position is taken by those who ought to know better that the insurance industry should not administer the medicare plan in Canada because it would cost a lot, more particularly because of the profits we would make. Since when has it become anti-social to operate efficiently and productively - and should there not be at least some reasonable reward for doing so?” (Toronto Star, Mar.28, 1969)
The National Post wrote in "Nurses’ unions vs. nurses" (Jan.23, 2007): “…like every other player in the public health system, union bosses see the preservation of the government healthcare monopoly to be their over-arching objective…Like members of every other profession, nurses should be paid what the market demands, not what politicians and short-sighted unionists decide.”
Arnie Aberman wrote: “Mary Ferguson-Pare, president of Ontario’s Registered Nurses Association, asserts that “not-for-profit care is better, faster and cheaper than for-profit delivery.” Surely no one would use a for-profit service if that were true. Why, then, does private care have to be illegal in Ontario?” (National Post, Apr.3, 2007)
Iain G. Foulds wrote: “There is a clear, timeless line behind every issue, this being the principle of private property (John Locke, 1690) vs. collective property (Karl Marx, 1870). The true left follows Marx’s belief that all individual incomes are to be considered collective property to be redistributed by the state. Thus, our communist medical system, education system, intergovernmental transfers, etc. Equally, the left’s consideration of a position of employment as the collective property of both the employer and employee is philosophically attractive to unions. We can endlessly debate a thousand policies, but to address this central principle is to answer them all.” (National Post, May 16, 2007)
Linda Silas, the President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, wrote: “Yet, overwhelmingly, nurses want to work in a healthcare system funded and delivered publicly. We know that it will be worse for everybody with more private financing and delivery.” (Ottawa Citizen, Mar.19, 2006) We do?
David McGruer wrote in "Free market can only help health care": “Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions, reveals the typical socialist ignorance of all things economic when she claims in her letter that labour competition will not lead to better health care. She’s correct that, in a government monopoly, higher wages will do nothing to change health care except make it more expensive and therefore harm Canadians. Where she goes wrong is in saying privatization will not address the shortage. As long as the government monopolizes medical education, the supply of nurses cannot adapt to the demand. If, however, the nursing and medical professions were released from their state of bondage, all manner of changes and innovations would occur, as eager professionals rushed in to meet the demands for their services, just as occurs in all businesses not shackled by government. Instead of competition among provincial governments for a limited supply of money and nurses, what if there were competition among health care providers for the attention of the health care consumer and among schools for health care students? We would have an unlimited supply of doctors and nurses all earning precisely what the public determines their value to be, just like the free occupations. In a free market, shortages of any service are limited and temporary until people flock to fill the need, while in markets closed by government, shortages are endemic and enduring. When will the basic economic principles of freedom elucidated over the past few centuries become part of our basic high school curriculum? Not soon, I suspect, as that profession, too, is dominated by state enforced economic illiteracy.” (National Post, Jan.26, 2007, Re: Silas’ Jan.25, 2007 Post letter)
The St. Catharines Standard (June 21, 2007) wrote of Ontario Nurses Association members picketing outside the St. Catharines General Hospital, complaining that there is a nursing shortage in the city’s public hospital. There was no mention in the article about, or comment from, a strangely silent Jim Bradley. It’s as if there are no problems in Bradley’s downtown hospital, let alone the Liberal’s healthcare system! You can bet if Harris was in power, Bradley would place himself front and centre at the nurse’s rally, huffing and puffing about ‘Tory cuts’ with suitable indignation. But now…silence.
The St. Catharines Standard (June 27, 2007) wrote of nurse Kim Stasiak in “Stasiak quits LHIN board”: “In the 2.5 years Stasiak served on the LHIN board, since being appointed by Health Minister George Smitherman, the registered nurse said she supported the work of the provincial government to preserve and enhance public health care.” Then it gets better. “But if the Conservatives win the fall election, Stasiak predicted Tory policies would lead to funding cuts and privatization. By signing the agreement with the provincial government, that’s what she and the LHIN would be agreeing to if the provincial government changes, she said.” So she supports the Liberals, who created the LHIN's, but won’t sign it on a fear-mongering premonition of what may or may not happen under the Tories, as opposed to the disaster happening now under the Liberals, with whom she agrees?? Rather than fight for a fairer health system, she quits on the basis of ideology. And what if the Liberals win; will she go back and continue agitating for more disastrous single-payer health monopolism? “Stasiak also said her involvement in LHIN decision making was often limited by conflict of interest rules. During many discussions, the front line health care worker said she’s been told “Kim, that’s a conflict. Kim, that’s a conflict.” Doesn’t being a LHIN board member mean one should be working on behalf of all patients, not on some perceived pet anti-privatization agenda?
The Ontario Liberals introduced the LHIN legislation, known as Bill 36, on Nov. 24, 2005, close to a federal election, which diluted the attention and scrutiny of the press and general public that it should otherwise have been given. Ontario's Liberal majority passed the LHIN bill on Mar.1, 2006. (If Stasiak was appointed in June 2005 (Welland Tribune, Aug.5, 2005) and resigned in June 2007, how is it that she served for 2.5 years?) Stasiak doesn’t mention that John Tory and the Conservatives opposed Bill 36. (Collingwood-Enterprise Bulletin, Mar.10, 2005) Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, wrote: “Bill 36 represents a huge power grab by the provincial government over community health organizations, which will lose their funding to the LHIN’s in 2007, and effective decision making power in 2006. LHIN boards will all be approved by the province, not elected by the communities.” (Pembroke Observer, Mar.10, 2006) How convenient to smokescreen what the Grits have actually done with alarmist speculation of what the Tories might do!
During March 2006, the Liberal government paid for full-page newspaper ads touting nursing as a career. Wouldn’t our tax money have been better spent on actual patient care, instead of shilling for the unionized status quo? Then in April 2006, nurses ran radio ads complaining of stress and shortages due to thousands of nurses retiring. Wasn’t the Liberal’s $40 million trust (slush?) fund enough for them? In their 2003 campaign, didn’t the Liberals promise to “hire 8000 nurses”? Didn’t McGuinty promise the RNAO: “We’re going to give you full-time work; and we’re going to give you respect”? (Ottawa Citizen, Sept.21, 2003) How’d that work out? Wouldn’t the money that Bradley’s Liberals pointlessly spent in 2006 on: re-branding Ontario’s ‘trillium’ and the Lottery Corporation’s logos (how much did the Liberals pay to remove the ‘C’ from ‘OLGC’?); or on TV commercials; or on lawyers battling the parents of autistic children; or on their 2007 puerile “FLICK OFF” campaign; or their $32 million citizenship and immigration grant-scandal; have been better spent on, say…patients??
The Toronto Star (Dec.4, 1995) wrote: “As Liberal MPP Jim Bradley observed rather profoundly in the legislature, governments can be judged best by what they do in private. Put another way, it is what governments try to do covertly that speaks to us about their integrity and respect for voters.” Wasn’t Bill 36 a “clandestine power-grab” by the majority Liberals? How trustworthy were the Liberals when they were found to have been disingenuous with their wait-time claims? How much "integrity" did the Liberals show when they were found to have mis-treated cancer patients? When the Harris government introduced a budget at an auto-parts plant, Bradley whined that it was “illegitimate” (St. Catharines Standard, Apr.25, 2003), calling it “unprecedented arrogance on the part of the government.” (Niagara Falls Review, Mar.13, 2003) Wasn’t it “unprecedented arrogance” for Bradley’s Liberals to think they could hide their $32-million grant-scandal from the opposition and the taxpaying public? (Until they were caught by the Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter, whose July 26, 2007 scathing report said the Liberal’s grant-giving process “was not open, transparent, or accountable.” (National post, July 27, 2007) How ‘legitimate’ is it for Bradley’s Liberals to give tax money away with absolutely no controls in place? What kind of "respect for voters" was that? McGuinty, who once lectured in the St. Catharines Standard (Dec.30, 1999) that the Harris government is “simply arrogant” should really take a good look in the mirror of irony. “Talk is cheap when it comes to these issues,” McGuinty smugly lectured Ernie Eves, regarding the closing of coal-fired plants. (May 21, 2002, Ontario Legislature Assembly) But, from 2003 to 2007, McGuinty’s cheap-talking Liberals didn’t do what they specifically campaigned on regarding shutting the coal plants down. Bradley may have seemed “profound” in the eyes of the Star in 1995; but by 2007, his Liberal government became a poster for duplicity and broken promises. Jim Bradley called Premier Mike Harris “a liar” in the Legislature, according to the Windsor Star, Dec.8, 1995. Jim Bradley said to NDP house leader Dave Cooke “I wish I could call you a liar.” (Ottawa Citizen, Dec.19, 1991) But, were the myriad of campaign promises made by Jim Bradley and his Liberals actually worth anything, or, were they just outright, bald-faced lies? And if they couldn’t deliver what they said they were going to do in 2003, why would anyone possibly believe Bradley or his Liberals again during their campaign in 2007? Or, to put it another way, “We wish we couldn’t call you a liar, Jim.”
By June 21, 2007, the National Post reported: “The Liberal government is circumventing the ombudsman’s office and squandering tax dollars by hiring outsiders to investigate public complaints because it wants to maintain control over the investigations, the province’s ombudsman said.” Yep – money that could be spent on priorities - such as patients - the Liberals spent trying to favorably protect their butts. (I guess Liberals were not pleased about ombudsman Andre Marin’s scathing indictment earlier in 2007 of how they mistreated Suzanne Aucoin). Marin said: “The government...wants to be in the driver seat. From the government’s perspective, the risk is much more contained when you go out and hire a contractor…No doubt the office of the ombudsman is the most institutionally independent, most cost-effective investigative body around. We have a proven track record, so why not go to the ombudsman? The government is queasy in these kinds of cases to relinquish control over the issue.” (Liberals manipulating investigations to skew a favorable outcome - that’s enough to make anyone queasy) The Liberals circumvent the ombudsman because, as Marin says, “they don’t know where the ball is going to land because we don’t accept scripted mandates.” That this kind of shameless Liberal duplicity has been found and revealed by such a highly-placed source as our ombudsman’s office should be shocking to all Ontarians. It’s as if Liberals are prepared to lie and manipulate their way to power by any means possible.
In November 2006, the Liberals ran a campaign claiming wait times were reduced – this was the TV ad showing a man sitting in an empty waiting room who is told at the end “the doctor will see you now”. Jim McCarter, Ontario’s Auditor, in his 2006 annual report, seriously questioned a number of Liberal healthcare claims, stating that the hospital and system-wide wait-time data posted on a government website should be taken “with a grain of salt.” (National Post, Dec.21, 2006) The Post reported “The Advertising Standards Council also recently ruled that a government campaign suggesting progress on wait times was inaccurate.” What?!? Fudged, specious, skewed, pre-scripted, misleading, manipulated, exaggerated, distorted, duplicitous healthcare claims were made by Liberals…it can’t be! Liberal spin-doctors spinning doctored truths about wait times - say it isn’t so! Patients lying on stretchers, waiting in emergency rooms, while Liberals are lying about their wait times…impossible!
John Tory wrote in "Liberals deceitful on wait times" that: “wait time numbers have not come down as McGuinty promised. Nor has his “unprecedented” web site become “up to date”, or “transparent”, or “reliable” at all. For all the tax dollars McGuinty spends trying to convince Ontarians to the contrary, patients continue to wait, in the dark as they ever were.” (Toronto Star, Jan.4, 2007)
James Wallace wrote in "‘Cultural rot’ has infected the Ministry of Health" (St. Catharines Standard, Dec.16, 2006), that the Auditor found “there are 300,000 more health care cards than people in Ontario”, and that “the Ministry has failed to verify citizenship documents for 70% of all existing health card holders.” Also, “despite evidence of fraud”, Wallace writes, “including a 2004 consultant’s report that estimated OHIP fraud in the $11- 22 million range annually, “the ministry devotes very limited resources to monitoring health cards usage,” the auditor found”. Wallace wrote of Joanne Bruyer of Fort Frances, who found out in Oct. 2006 that a month earlier someone in Montreal had used her identity to bill OHIP for pacemaker surgery. “I thought they would have been a little more concerned,” she said after OHIP told her there was “no way to verify” her story. What’s going on? Why doesn’t OHIP provide its captive patient-clients with itemized statements for services rendered? Shouldn’t we know how much an OHIP-paid nurses’ visit, or a lab test, or a surgery, or a drug regimen ‘cost’ us (if in fact it was us)? On July 9, 2007, the St. Catharines Standard wrote: “Critics say the Liberals are turning a blind eye to healthcare fraud by not quickly phasing out millions of old health cards following a recommendation from the province’s auditor months ago.” With almost 34 billion of our 2006 tax dollars being drained into Ontario’s healthcare, who’s keeping tabs on the billing? Where’s the transparency, the accountability, the so-called efficiency of this publicly-run monopoly?? How do we know OHIP, or the Liberals, are not selling us a bill of goods (a perception of healthcare) - rather than the ‘goods’ themselves (actual healthcare)??
Considering some of the decisions emanating from HSARB (Ontario’s Health Services Appeal and Review Board), it’s likely that a Charter challenge, similar to Quebec’s Chaoulli case, is gestating there. Smitherman called HSARB a “fail-safe already built into the Ontario healthcare system designed to try and assist people with accessibility challenges where they exist.” (Toronto Star, Feb.17, 2006). But less than a year later, Smitherman’s system was severely reprimanded by Ontario’s Ombudsman for the careless way in which it treated – or specifically, in how it did NOT treat - Suzanne Aucoin. (detailed later in this essay). Despite Smitherman’s earlier pretensions, there was NO “fail-safe” in his system for Aucoin, and it DID NOT “try” – in fact, HSARB acted as if “accessibility challenges” did not “exist”. Was Smitherman lying through his teeth at the time, or was he simply incompetent? Suzanne Aucoin passed away on Nov.11, 2007.
The St.Catharines Standard (Feb.16, 2007) wrote: “After 3½ years of broken promises not to raise taxes, to balance the budget and to close coal fired power plants, McGuinty agreed his own credibility will be an issue leading up to the October election. “I don’t expect to get a free ride from my opponents. I raised the health tax. I didn’t do that to raise my popularity. I did that because I needed more money for health care.” Nice that McGuinty now admits the ‘Tax-formerly known as Premium’ is a “tax” again, but how much money did the Liberal health care monopoly really “need” and why? Was it being spent efficiently? How much is enough? Would even a 100% funding increase solve medicare’s inherent problems of waste and unaccountability?
McGuinty’s oh-so-clever ‘premium/tax’ wordplay came back to bite the Liberals, when the National Post reported (June 22, 2007) that “a 35-year old linguistic quirk has left Toronto taxpayers on the hook for $6 million a year in unionized transit employees’ provincial health premiums. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled it would not hear the TTC’s (Toronto Transit Commission's) appeal of a lower court ruling…In 1972 the union obtained a guarantee from the TTC that the transit authority would pay 100% of OHIP “contributions.” Seventeen years later, at the behest of the province,’’ [which was the David Peterson Liberal government, including Jim Bradley] “the TTC then switched from covering OHIP premiums to paying a payroll tax. But the old language still remained. When Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government enacted the Ontario health premium on July 1, 2004, the union turned to the 1972 wording in its contract to argue that the TTC, not individual employees, should pay the health fee.” Both union president Bob Kinnear and TTC chair Adam Giambrone “said that had the McGuinty government not initially tried to sell the new health levy as a premium rather than a tax, the union might not have won its case. “That really hurt the TTC,” Mr. Giambrone said. “If the government had been clear that this was a tax, we would likely not be in the same position.” ”
We clearly remember when flip-flop McGuinty, campaigning in 2003, signed the taxpayer federation’s pledge not raise taxes. His double-speak, conveniently calling his tax a “health premium” then, but calling it a “health tax” now, just cost all taxpayers (who already subsidize the TTC) millions more. Was Dalton McGuinty lying then, when he called his tax a premium; or is he a liar now, when he called his premium a tax? And isn’t it great that McGuinty’s Liberals (who so self-righteously railed against Mike Harris with “two-tier” innuendo) have, through their duplicity, themselves created a two-tier health system – where an elite few get their ‘universal’ healthcare completely for free, while others are not only forced to pay for themselves, but must now give a free ride for the TTC as well? McGuinty likes to convey the (false) perception that everyone pays his health tax, but as John Tory and Howard Hampton both suggest (Toronto Sun, June 23, 2007), it should be repealed altogether. The Sun said McGuinty had no plans to recall the legislature to alter the wording to ensure the tax is treated as a tax. When is Liberal tax not a tax? When is a Liberal lie not a lie? Smarmy Liberal attempts to skew already-unwieldy socialized monopoly medicine with band-aid egalitarianism have become a disastrous farce. Not long ago (Toronto Sun, Nov.16, 2006), Smitherman was bragging that the Liberal government wasn’t going to be blackmailed into two-tier healthcare. But that’s exactly what Liberals themselves did: blackmailed one set of taxpayers to unfairly benefit another. McGuinty, the premier who’d make Pinocchio blush, callously refused to do anything about this glaring blowback to his backpedaling hypocrisy, saying “I’ll let the minister of finance figure out what we need to do, if anything, beyond this point.” (Toronto Sun, June 23, 2007) What great leadership - he expects Sorbara to shovel him out of his own mess. What ‘we need to do’ is painfully clear: get these incompetent lefty clowns out of office. The Liberals, even after the TTC was forced to pay the premium, still insisted that employers don’t have to pay it; that it was a tax on individuals! McGuinty attempted to sidestep his confusing, bungled policy patchwork with this precious chestnut: “I’m just pleased that we’ve been able to make so many investments in healthcare.” Whaaat?? Ontarians deserve better than this smug Liberal tripe. McGuinty’s ‘pleased’ that his credibility is non-existent? Ontarians deserve investments in healthcare that are sustainable, honest, principled and fair. On this, Liberals can’t be trusted.
Is the answer simply for the government to dump endless amounts of money into a non-competitive, union-dominated health monopoly?
A National Post (Nov.17, 2003) editorial, "Romanow's lecture" read:
"Roy Romanow is surprised and angry. He has no reason to be either. It's been almost a year since the former Saskatchewan premier released his $15-million, one-man royal commission report on medicare. In the interim, almost nothing has been done by any government -- federal or provincial -- on any of his four dozen recommendations. On Thursday, in a speech to students at the University of Ottawa, Mr. Romanow chastised governments for their inaction. He charged their failure to do as he demanded was "a democratic affront." Abiding by his recommendations, he said was an "obligation" politicians owed "not only to health, but to democracy." Excuse us, but we don't remember Canadians electing Mr. Romanow to be medicare czar. Nor do we recall a national referendum on implementing his report's prescriptions. No federal-provincial conference has been held at which Canada's elected leaders voted openly to cede their accountability for the nation's health care system to Mr. Romanow, and him alone. In the 12 months since he brought out his wish list, no fewer than eight of the 13 senior governments in Canada have held general elections. Although many of them have campaigned on fixing medicare, not one of them campaigned overtly on executing his particular advice. In short, Mr. Romanow's report has no more democratic legitimacy than any of the scores of other reports, studies, surveys or reviews governments commission each year. To claim that ignoring it is an affront to democracy is for Mr. Romanow to place himself and his recommendations above Canadians' elected representatives.Mr. Romanow also complained that no progress could be shown on any of his key recommendations, but particularly on the establishment of a Health Council of Canada -- an independent federal-provincial board charged with overseeing medicare and recommending improvements or even punishments to governments not complying with the Canada Health Act. Well, duh, Mr. Romanow. When you recommend $15-billion in additional public spending as the economy slows, suggest doctors be forced into practice collectives, and that patients' primary contact with the health system be a "case manager" (read bureaucrat) who would choose which doctors or "nurse practitioners" treated the patient -- rather than the patient choosing for himself -- what else do you expect? He dismissed as "overheated rhetoric" any suggestions that Canada's government-monopoly health system was inadequate already and would worsen as Baby Boomers hit their senior years. He called health care a "moral enterprise," not just another service, and puffed about it being "a right of citizenship ... a public good, a national symbol," one of our "core values," a symbol of Canada's "equity, fairness and solidarity." He even suggested the moral superiority of our medicare would enable Canada to avoid the laws of economics and provide ever-better care without resorting to free market incentives.In more than 200 years, little progress has been made on implementing the moral recommendations in the Brothers Grimm fairy tales either. Mr. Romanow's fanciful exercise is in good company."
We saw Roy Romanow’s huge doorstop of a health report (fall 2002) which essentially called for the public sector to spend, spend, spend. However, when he was the NDP premier of Saskatchewan, Romanow was not the Great Defender of medicare, but more like the Great Pretender. “Romanow admitted his government was wrong to slash nurse training programs,” wrote the Saskatchewan Star Phoenix (Nov. 14, 2003). He also made “wide cuts” to coverage. Romanow told nurses that in the early 1990’s, the province was “virtually bankrupt” and his government had to reduce spending…he realized when he was still premier, that his government had implemented a false economy. What - a false, bankrupt economy, barely 30 years after Tommy Douglas skedaddled from Saskatchewan to socialize Ottawa? Can there be a link between socialism and the pyramid-scheme false-economies it ferments? Romanow also dismissed the Canada Health Act as a “relatively minor part of Canadian healthcare…and a preoccupation of the federal government”. (National Post, May 1, 2000)
Diane Francis wrote in her Feb.22, 2000 National Post column that, “politically the problem is with the public sector unions, or the “provider community”. It fights all changes as threats because some 90% of dollars spent on healthcare are spent on wages”. In a Jan.27, 2005 National Post article by Marc Kennedy regarding healthcare worker shortages, Michael Decter (former NDP deputy health minister, Bob Rae’s 'social-contract' "enforcer" [As Sean Conway saw him, Toronto Star, Nov.17, 1993], medical-school enrolment-cutter, and former head of the Health Council of Canada) said all levels of government are throwing a great deal of money at the existing workforce of health professionals, which is not providing the required solution to the problem. Kelly Toughhill wrote (Toronto Star, Mar.6, 1993): “Decter, like many deputy ministers before him, argues that in order to save universal medicare, the scope of the program has to be scaled down...governments have to cut parts of medicare to save the over-all system in the same way a doctor must sometimes amputate a limb to save the patient”. [It's astounding that this was the zeitgeist of socialist healthcare: 'Cut medicare to save it!' This, in a nutshell, exemplifies the sustainability charade perpetrated by the left in all its hypocritical glory.] It’s amazing that this thought came from an N.D.P deputy health minister: scaled down universality! Is that not antithetical to “universality”? (Like the 2004 Liberal ‘de-listing’ of services which previously were “universal”?) Decter racked up a lavish expense account as he made the NDP cuts; the Toronto Star ran a Patrick Corrigan cartoon portraying him as a cigar chomping pig waving a 100k expense tab. (Nov.18, 1993)
[And, as we'll see in this essay, not a decade later, the Liberals continued to cut OHIP coverage in 2004, AND increase taxes, AND create a brand-new health tax. When the doctor shortages and waiting lists, which were laid during the Peterson-Rae years, finally hatched by 2007, the Liberal version of medicare was still being trumpeted as a rhetorical slogan in Ontario, but was actually increasingly outsourced to, and delivered in, the United States.]
In 1989, Toronto’s doctor to patient ratio was 1 doctor for 312 people. Bob Rae’s NDP government slashed medical enrolments in Ontario, because, incredibly, for socialists, having too many doctors was seen as a problem. (Toronto Star, Lisa Priest, Oct.24, 1992; Mar.3, 1993; Apr.30, 1993) The supposed need to curb medical school enrolments was first raised in 1991 (the infamous 'BS' report) by Greg Stoddart of McMaster and Morris L. Barer of UBC. (Suzanne Morrison, Hamilton Spectator, Feb.13, 1993) The NDP cut enrolments at the U of T med school - but did not correspondingly cut their subsidy: Ontario lost 300 spots over 4 years; the U of T got to keep its 9.6 million dollar annual provincial grant. No wonder senior U of T health sciences administrator Dr. Richard Ten Cate effused: “It’s a very good deal”! (Toronto Star, Feb.19, 1993, Lisa Priest) If only that missing cohort of doctors had been available today, in 2007. Thanks, Messers. Rae and Decter.
As Dr. Joseph Berger wrote in "Doctor shortage" (National Post, Jan.29, 2005): "How ironic that the source for the article MD Shortage Critical (Jan. 27) is Michael Decter, chairman of the Health Council of Canada. Many doctors remember Mr. Decter as being the deputy health minister in Bob Rae's NDP government in Ontario, which reduced the number of available training positions for doctors and whose policies drove doctors from this province."
Berger also wrote in "Cutting back on doctors never a good idea" (National Post, Aug.31, 2006): "To whom was cutting back on the number of doctors a good idea? Certainly not to me and many of my medical colleagues who fiercely opposed the stupidity of the Peterson Liberal and Rae NDP governments of Ontario, which pushed forward these ideas. We warned our appeasement-minded colleagues in the OMA and CMA as well as the general public about the likely long-term consequences of their proposals. Who were "we"? For the most part, we were doctors of British origin and we were supported by doctors of eastern European origin, all of us having experienced the disaster that a socialist government-controlled system produces. Britain today, since Margaret Thatcher, has a thriving private system, alongside a decaying, over- regulated, bureaucratically obese public system. Lesson to be learned: Cutting back on doctors is never a good idea. There are always geographic areas that are under-serviced, new techniques that require new expertise, more research that needs to be done."
Hubert Hogle wrote: “we should recall Bob Rae’s prescription for reducing healthcare costs when he was premier of Ontario. He decreed that medical school enrolment should be cut in order to reduce the number of doctors billing OHIP. Apparently, his stint at Oxford did not include lessons in the law of supply and demand.” (Globe and Mail, Oct.10, 2006)
Robert Hicks wrote that Decter’s “dance of the seven veils will not bring the people the head of John the Baptist. However, it will bring a health care system staffed by increasingly old and tired doctors. The 30% reduction in enrolments will bring severe shortages of doctors…The full effects of Mr. Decter’s dance will be felt when Ministry of Health and med school bureaucrats reach that stage of their lives when they become maximum consumers of healthcare resources.” (Globe and Mail, Feb.24, 1993)
Well, it’s not as if the NDP wasn’t warned…astoundingly, Decter is still peddling his meddling brand of advice: in 2004, claiming “There is not a case to build more hospital beds”; and in 2007, still pushing his worn ‘patients must learn to navigate the system for faster healthcare’ mantra. (He was still shilling his book on Allan Gregg's TVO show Aug.5, 2007). Really, so that’s why we have lineups, because patients are ignorant? (I thought it was due to our bloated, unresponsive, union-dominated, un-competitive, self-protecting, single-payer monopoly) What’s worrisome is that Smitherman in April 2004 gushed that Decter “knows a lot about this stuff. I think it’s really important that we take all of his advice.” Yeah – if doctor shortages, bed shortages and scaled down coverage is the Liberal’s aim. The St. Catharines Standard’s Sept. 30, 2006 story, More hospital beds not in the cards: premier, revealed the Grit’s ideology. By Jan.5, 2007, the Standard’s headline read: Pressures mount for NHS: Bed shortage forces health system to postpone some elective surgeries. (What bed shortage?) Yet, The Sudbury Star wrote about bed shortages, on Aug.25, 2005, fifteen months earlier: “Someone in Smitherman’s office has failed to acknowledge the number of long term beds Sudbury would need, and like a ripple effect, hundreds of people have since been made to suffer.” Ditto in Niagara.
Jeffrey Simpson wrote that even Roy Romanow warned: “The commission strongly feels that the additional funds should not become a target for increasing salary pressures from healthcare providers.” Simpson added: “Providers’ salaries are the largest single component of the healthcare system’s costs. Pouring billions into the system would obviously embolden providers to grab for more. That’s exactly what happened from 2002 to 2003 after Ottawa’s first multi-billion infusion of cash to the provinces for healthcare. And it’s what continues to happen”. (Globe and Mail, Apr.13, 2005)
On Oct.10, 2006, Simpson wrote in the Globe and Mail: “Anyone can argue that still more billions are needed, but it’s hard to repeat those stale and wrong assertions from those who insisted the system was being “starved” for cash, not with $41 billion starting to flow through the system...What politicians and everyone in the system do is ration care, even after additional billions and billions are injected into the system. The Canadian way is to ration care, and to ferociously oppose any attempt to alter or improve rationing by allowing private delivery of publicly financed treatments. The Canadian way, in other words, is to whittle away at very long wait times with huge infusions of cash, thereby reducing very long wait times to just long ones...The system is awash in cash. It has never had so much, but whatever is being spent will never be enough.” Fast forward to March 19, 2007, when minutes after the Harper federal budget was read, the opposition was already whining about healthcare being under funded.
Paul Kedrosky wrote in "More money doesn’t mean better healthcare" that “fans of Canada’s single-payer system don’t want change – they want more money.” (National Post, Feb.24, 2004)
It didn’t take long for the money-vacuum to begin. The Toronto Sun (Mar.6, 2007) reported: “The Ontario Hospital Association says a contract approved by an arbitration panel to the province’s 50,000 nurses and health personnel completely ignores the ability of hospitals to actually pay for the provisions. The contract, which includes a 7% raise over two years, comes nearly one year after the last collective agreement expired. Nurses association president Linda Haslam-Stroud says the new contract falls far short of her group’s expectations.” Ah, the great expectations of the entitled collective.
A Saskatoon Star Phoenix writer commented on Dec.4, 2005: “It is almost beyond belief that Mr. Romanow dismisses non-government healthcare delivery as part of the solution. Blended delivery models work well in various European states, and could work as well here. But all we’re offered is a dinosauric, statist solution, which to work, will require either a gigantic dedicated tax, or a massive siphoning off of federal surpluses, which in any case will not continue indefinitely.”
Andrew Coyne wrote: “The system doesn’t need more money. We’re spending more on healthcare now, per capita, after inflation, than ever before in our history. Yet a generation ago, waiting lists were all but unknown. We spend more per capita, than almost any nation on earth. Yet we rank far down the list in terms of results obtained. And, as the Kirby commission documented, in the absence of prices, the managers of the system haven’t the first clue of how much anything costs. The system is a black hole of waste. More money just isn’t unnecessary: More money is the problem. It isn’t coincidental that the impetus for reform, which seemed so unstoppable just a few years ago, vanished the moment federal dollars began to flow. With all that new money rushing through the system, no one had any incentive to change what they were doing. Most of the money went not to “buy change” but to raise the salaries of providers. As indeed, the next installment of cash is likely to do: why do you think that the health sector has been hit by so many strikes as of late? And yet we will go through another federal election in which both major parties promise to spend billions of dollars more on healthcare. And the cycle will be repeated: The unions will bilk the provinces, the provinces will bilk the feds. And federal politicians will bilk you.” (The National Post, Apr.28, 2004)
McGuinty said during his 2007 election campaign: “I need that money" (St. Catharines Standard, Sept.7, 2007). But does he? With a $2+ BILLION budget surplus in 2007?! Coincidentally, his health-tax brings in "$2.6 billion annually to Ontario's health-care coffers". Also when asked by reporters to repeat his famously-broken 2003 election promise ("I won't cut your taxes, but I won't raise them, either") McGuinty declined "giving only a "yep" when if the promise was being resurrected. Twice he was asked to repeat the pledge in full for the cameras; both times he simply smiled and asked for the next question".
Livio Di Matteo wrote in "Medicare's core value", (National Post, Apr.8, 2004): "The federal government and the provinces are poised to again attempt health reform: Paul Martin wants a 10-year plan to ensure the system's financial stability.In the wake of a deal to inject $35-billion into health care over the next five years, as well as start to develop programs for catastrophic drug care, home care and primary care reform, the time has apparently come to figure out how to sustain it all. As bizarre as it seems, Canada's health care planning consists of first the money, then the plan, all subject to one overriding principle: Don't consider solutions, no matter how sensible, that would make use of any market-based principles.Over the last decade, governments have managed health care in purge and binge cycles of first pursuing retrenchment policies and then dispensing wads of cash. As a result of our centralized budgeting and administrative controls, we spend a smaller share of our GDP on health than the United States, but suffer from often very lengthy wait times. As recently noted at the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations' Partners in Health conference, some elective surgery in Saskatchewan can take waits of almost four years, versus 30 weeks in Alberta.Our health care debate revolves around the notion of "Canadian values" rather than the more pragmatic approach of trying to devise a system that works better. A health care system that works must recognize the importance of choice, competition and economic incentives alongside the need for comprehensive and equitable coverage in the face of catastrophic health events.The federal government and the provinces should define core medicare as medically necessary physician and hospital services of a catastrophic nature, and jointly renegotiate the services to be fully covered. The result would be a national set of covered and publicly funded services that would be federally financed via federal health transfers. Such a federal role is within its constitutional mandate, given that the federal government is required to ensure that Canadians have access to reasonably comparable levels of public services.To provide the remaining health services, the private sector is needed. One solution would have the federal and provincial governments negotiating mandated private insurance packages for Canadians to fund vision, dental, drugs, home care and other medical professional health expenditures, as well as any services not covered by the core medicare list. The provincial governments' collective buying power should allow them to negotiate attractive packages with private insurers. Canadians would have some choice of policies and premiums, with premiums scaled to income and deductibles waived for low income Canadians. To further ease the burden, the income tax system could also provide generous deductibility of medical care expenses. This is a familiar concept, given that many Canadians already have similar type private coverage via their employers. It would introduce more consumer choice into the health care system and encourage competition for insurance dollars. Unlike the public health care system, the privately insured system of dentists, physiotherapists and chiropractors suffers from no shortages. A complementary system of public health care for catastrophic medical needs and a publicly mandated system of private health insurance for non-catastrophic care requires the acceptance of market incentives and competition in the provision of public health care. Those who fear that incentives will create a "two-tier" system seem unaware that Canada already has a three-tier medical care system. For the most affluent Canadians, health care devoid of waiting lists is already available in the United States. The next tier of Canadian care is for the well informed and aggressive, who can push their way to the front of the treatment line. Finally, for everyone else, there is the third tier of Canadian medical care -- long waiting lists. The result: Affluent Canadians can reap the benefits of private care across the border while the rest of us are denied a similar choice at home."
This is the sort of duplicitous hypocrisy that Liberals from Chretien to Martin to McGuinty to Smitherman to Bradley are immersed in, and bow to at patient's expense - literally and figuratively. They argue cost, yet fail to provide service. Di Matteo's article was written over a year before Quebec's Chaoulli was unleashed; three years before the McCreith case was begun in Ontario. Did these Liberals have any responsibility for the patients who were suffering in the meantime?
Dr. David J. Stewart wrote in "The doctors’ real dilemma": “I do not feel that increased funding will cure the ills of the Canadian healthcare system. We already have one of the most expensive systems in the world. Because of the basic structural flaws of a government monopoly offering “free” care, further funding will result only in further demand and waste and restrictions rather than in further quality. Over the past 22 years, I have seen several increases in funding. After raising hope, each has failed miserably.” (Witness two pre-Chaoulli statist “solutions”: Paul Martin’s so-called “fix for a generation” and McGuinty’s “health premiums”) Stewart continued: “we must move beyond the absolutism of pseudo-egalitarian dogma that has ensnared us in our healthcare social safety net. We should look at the huge financial – and moral – costs of our current system. While some worry about the impact of private healthcare, I submit that only government is capable of the waste, mismanagement and moral blackmail on the grand scale that we have seen. We should not promise to deliver something we cannot deliver, and we should not coerce healthcare professionals into pretending that they are delivering it. We should stop pretending that healthcare delivery is free, and should stop prohibiting people from paying for care when they wish to.” (Ottawa Citizen, Dec.6, 2002)
Nadeem Esmail wrote in "The long, long wait": "Canadians experience some of the longest waiting times in the developed world…it’s not how much Canadians are spending that is the problem. The real problem is the structure of our health care system itself. Patients in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg and Switzerland receive their healthcare with virtually no waiting times at all. The healthcare programs in these countries deliver care on the basis of need and not ability to pay, just as in Canada, but the structures of their programs are entirely different. Unlike Canada, these countries employ private competition and appropriate financial incentives for both patients and providers as core health policies…Private competition in the healthcare sector has brought great benefits to the citizens of these nations…International evidence shows that the competitive private provision of services is more cost efficient and produces a higher quality of care than the monopolistic public provision of services that exists in Canada…Ontarians should not be celebrating a 15-week waiting time, even if it is the shortest in Canada and an improvement over last year. Taxpayers in Canada are paying so much for health services that they should expect no waiting times at all. All we need is the right health policies to make that happen.” (National Post, Nov.9, 2006)
Nadeem Esmail and Jason Clemens wrote in “Health funding isn’t the problem”, regarding the Conservative Mar.19, 2007 budget, that “an examination of the history of federal transfers for healthcare suggests that Monday’s announcement will likely produce little benefit while costing a great deal…throwing yet more money at the provinces will do little, if anything, to improve the care we receive, and will instead impede more serious and productive reforms…Rather than pursue even moderate reforms that would allow the provinces more flexibility, particularly in regard to the use of private health delivery, Ottawa has maintained its heavy hand and opted to simply transfer more money to the provincial capitals. The result has been more spending but poorer performance. In 1997, the average Canadian could expect to wait 11.9 weeks for the delivery of care after referral to a specialist by a general practitioner. By 2006, the wait time had grown nearly 50% to 17.8 weeks…Our experience shows that problems with government services can’t be resolved by more money when that money is not accompanied by meaningful reforms, particularly flexibility and autonomy for the provinces that actually provide these services.” (National Post, Mar.22, 2007)
On Nov.13, 2000, The National Post editorialized that: “the welfare state’s universal, free, all you can use, buffet-style medicare cannot deliver on its promises… Queue-jumping for cash is also legal in Canada, when worker compensation boards pay a premium to doctors to treat employees on a priority basis to speed their return to work…the single tier healthcare system is a utopian fraud”. Yet Liberals continuously perpetuate the façade of utopian healthcare, even after Jean Chretien said is is "not a sin" to promote private healthcare, or after former federal Health Minister Allan Rock admitted that: Liberals have allowed a parallel system of "private for-profit medicine" to flourish. This ‘flourishment’ occurred as Liberals, unable to bear publicly acknowledging the inadequacy and mediocrity, not to mention the hypocrisy, of their vaunted status quo, simply turned their cheek.
Pierre Pettigrew, as Liberal federal Health Minister, said: “If some provinces want to experiment with the private delivery option, my view is that as long as they respect the single-payer, public-payer, we should be examining these efforts. If it doesn’t work, they’ll stop it. But if it works, we’ll all learn something.” (Toronto Star, Apr.28, 2004) It is astounding that this rare display of Liberal common sense so shocked Paul Martin and his politically-correct (or is that politically-challenged?) chattering class that Pettigrew was immediately forced to recant.
Here's what Ann Lukits wrote in "Watch out for the P-word in politics", (Cornwall Standard-Freeholder, Jun.25, 2004):
[note: Lukits' article was written a year before the Chaoulli decision was issued in Quebec. In retrospect, Pettigrew's idea was only a gaffe to statist Liberals who were offended that patient needs might supersede the needs of the medicare system. Just think of the time and potential and harm that has occurred under the Liberal watch. This essay, Liberal Healthcare Duplicity, is becoming a record of the tragedy of monopoly health-care in Canada.]
"Federal Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew almost committed political suicide this spring when he dared to utter the P-word - "private," as in private health care. Mentioning the P-word is a no-no at the best of times but particularly so if you're a Liberal politician facing an important election." It's such a sensitive subject," says Dr. Robert MacMillan, a former assistant deputy minister in the Ontario Health Ministry who watched the Pettigrew incident unfold during the last week of April." People, as soon as they hear the word private, conjure up a picture of greedy middlemen trying to rip off the health-care system." Pettigrew got into trouble for speaking the truth about the health system - that it's privately delivered and publicly funded. His actual sin was remarking to a parliamentary committee that the Canada Health Act does not prevent the private sector from delivering health services as long as those services are paid by a single, public payer, in this case the government. He also said Canada "should be examining these efforts" and suggested the government might be open to experimentation.End of story. Or it should have been. Instead, all hell broke loose and Pettigrew was effectively branded a traitor to the single-tier "universal" health system that defines us as Canadians. Under pressure from Liberals to tone down his truth-telling, he issued a clarification. "The ambition of the federal government," Pettigrew recanted, "is not to encourage private delivery, even within the terms of the Canada Health Act. Quite the contrary, our ambition is to expand public delivery." Pettigrew's so-called blunder - and the grief it caused him politically - says a lot about how poorly we understand our health system and how politicians exploit that ignorance. It also spotlights an issue that's being talked about more and more by academics and policymakers: whether to allow the private sector to play an even greater role in delivering critical health services. Health consultant MacMillan watched the whole sorry episode from his office in Toronto. A Kingston native, MacMillan has been chief coroner for eastern Ontario, executive director of the ministry's health insurance division, general manager of OHIP, assistant deputy minister of community health, and president of the Ontario Medical Association - to name a few of the hats he's worn. MacMillan was also the first director of the health ministry's independent health facilities branch and played a key role in the development of the 1990 Independent Health Facilities Act, which regulates private health clinics. The legislation was introduced under David Peterson's Liberals "to ensure that the same level of quality or better would be maintained in those facilities as in licensed institutions such as hospitals," MacMillan says. At the moment, there are an estimated 1,200 independent health facilities in Ontario, providing a wide range of medical services such as therapeutic abortions, colonoscopies, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging scans), X-rays, ultrasound, sleep-disorder assessment and others. These freestanding for-profit clinics perform more than five million procedures a year in Ontario, most of which are paid by OHIP. Even though private clinics are regulated by both the government and the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, MacMillan says there's still a lot of "scare-mongering when people are able to get on the soapbox and accuse others of breaking up our wonderful health-care system by the introduction of bad private entrepreneurs." MacMillan believes Pettigrew made a "political misjudgment" but the content of his message was accurate." People don't realize that the vast majority of community [health] services are already provided by the private sector and our system would fall apart overnight if anybody tried to suggest that they no longer exist," he says. Djamel Lounis, a Kingston health consultant who also worked for Ontario's Ministry of Health, says it's significant that Pettigrew didn't promise to stop private firms from delivering health care because "if this is the case, then governments should start to nationalize MDS Labs - and all the labs and private clinics." They're all afraid because people have been told - and they think - that health services have to be publicly delivered." Lounis, an expert on Canadian health legislation, says there's "nothing in the Canada Health Act saying [health services] must be publicly provided - and I challenge anybody to show me."
The Pettigrew flip-flop is a good example of why politicians tend to shy away from the health portfolio. Commenting on the health minister's mistake, Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson used the phrase "third rail" to describe health care in Canada. The term, he wrote, refers to an issue that, when touched, causes mortal damage to a political party. Whether Pettigrew's truth-blurting has mortally wounded Paul Martin's Liberals won't be known until voters go to the polls on June 28. But many observers were disappointed that the health minister felt the need to mask a good idea - rethinking the role of private health delivery - with mushy political platitudes about reaffirming the party's commitment to public health care. He played it safe politically but he also perpetuated public ignorance about how the system actually works. Harvey Lazar, director of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queen's University, says "it seems like everybody, with the exception of [Alberta Premier] Ralph Klein, is afraid of threatening the principles of the Canada Health Act, even if they don't know what the principles are and what they mean." The Canada Health Act has become synonymous with a sentimental notion of what the Canadian health system is all about whereas its main function is something quite different: The legislation exists to prohibit hospitals and health practitioners from charging for medically necessary hospital or physical services. The Act also sets out the rules that allow the federal government to reduce transfer payments to provinces that permit abuses. In Alberta, private health delivery has proliferated with the premier's blessing. The province is currently home to 53 private day-surgery clinics that perform cataract operations, abortions, dental and ophthalmology services. These stand-alone clinics are licensed by the government and accredited under the College of Physicians and Surgeons and operate the same way as private X-ray or MRI clinics do in Ontario. Alberta also has 157 private diagnostic clinics that operate on a fee-for-service basis under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan. Although Klein announced last winter that he was prepared to opt out of the Canada Health Act - and pay the penalty - to reform the Alberta system, it is a step he has yet to take. Lazar dislikes the "fear-mongering" that accompanies new ideas on health and the almost religious fervour with which certain politicians embrace the Canada Health Act. Even the most extreme right-wingers - people like Klein and former Ontario premier Mike Harris - "still toed the line on the Canada Health Act," he says. "I am personally sympathetic to the Canada Health Act but I just don't think it deserves the religious support it has," Lazar says. "I'm a supporter but the world's an imperfect place." Hugh Segal, president of the Montreal-based Institute for Research into Public Policy and a colleague of Lazar's in the policy studies school, says that Canada wouldn't have the health system it has if the late Tommy Douglas, the "father" of medicare, hadn't been prepared to experiment. "It's easier to propose amendments to the Ten Commandments than it is to propose amendments to the Canada Health Act," Segal says.
In retrospect, Pettigrew's blooper on expanding private health care was quite timely. Despite the flak he received from his Liberal colleagues, including Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's complaints of getting "mixed signals" from Ottawa on health, it's an idea that is gaining in popularity. The concept of transferring some hospital services into small community-based clinics where they can be performed on an outpatient basis - and arguably more cheaply - is increasingly seen as a solution to the long waiting lists that are at the heart of most complaints about the "public" health system. Proponents of private health clinics also like to point out that thanks to those clinics, patients continued to be served during last year's outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, which shut down the hospital system province wide. On June 8, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments for and against a controversial appeal from two Montreal residents, a physician and a man in his 70s, who are seeking the right to purchase private health insurance for use in a parallel private health system. The case is a direct challenge to the Canada Health Act and is being closely watched by health and legal experts. Former Ontario health minister Tony Clement, now campaigning for the federal Conservatives in Brampton West, also tried to address critical shortages in the public hospital system by introducing private MRI and CT (computerized tomography) clinics. Although Clement stressed that he wasn't trying to undermine medicare or create a two-tier health system, he was dubbed "two-tier Tony" nonetheless. From the outset, the clinics were dogged by controversy and politics. The new MRIs and CTs set off a heated political debate about private health care with the Ontario Liberals promising to close the private imaging clinics and bring them under the public system. The promise was part of a greater promise to provide more publicly funded and publicly delivered health services during the Liberals' four-year term of office. Health Minister George Smitherman told The Whig-Standard last week that he predicts there will be fewer private health providers in Ontario at the end of the Liberals' first four-year term. Nine new "public" MRI and CT scanners were also included in the Liberals' first provincial budget. Last fall, the McGuinty Liberals introduced Bill 8, A Commitment to Future of Medicare Act, a feel-good piece of legislation that makes universal public medicare the law in Ontario even though it already is. It also outlaws two-tier health - one tier for people who pay and one tier for people who don't - although two-tier health is already against the law. What's new in Bill 8 is an Independent Health Standards Council and the principle of accountability. The ideological divide on health was also apparent in the health-care studies produced in 2002 by former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow and Senator Michael Kirby. Romanow, a New Democrat, advised against public-private sponsorships and the expansion of for-profit firms in direct health services - what economists call a market approach to delivery. Kirby, a Liberal, felt the health system needed a bigger shakeup and advocated the creation of "international markets" to stimulate innovation. He also endorsed for-profit delivery as long as it received the same funding, quality and evaluation as not-for-profit. Duncan Sinclair, the former dean of the Queen's medical school who headed a provincial health services restructuring commission for five years in the late 1990s, says the health world is "a very campy kind of thing and the politics run along that line - left, right. It's also compounded now that we're running up to a [federal] election. If you're sympathetic to what Alberta wants to do, that's bad news in Ottawa."
Sinclair adds, "People confuse the insuring of health services with their delivery. In fact, we have always had, more or less, private delivery. But it's too complex for sound bites on TV. It doesn't get talked about. "In a research paper published last October entitled Medicare as a Moral Enterprise: The Romanow and Kirby Perspectives, Queen's public policy expert Tom Courchene notes "that one of the most daunting issues facing Canada's health system must surely be the inordinately long waiting periods for some medically necessary procedures. To appreciate fully the nature of this challenge it is instructive to note that the soon-to-retire baby-boom generation will have accumulated much more in the way of pension earnings than did previous generations ." Moreover," Courchene continues, "baby boomers are reaching retirement age in better health and with longer life expectancies than their predecessors. How then do we inform them that they can spend their higher pension incomes and savings on anything they want except their health care?"
Courchene predicts that the country's "inability to deal domestically with inappropriately long waiting periods and, more generally, timely access to state-of-the-art health care will become an issue of such societal import that it has the potential to undermine the structure of Canadian medicare." The Jarislowsky-Deutsch professor of economic and financial policy at Queen's, Courchene notes that health is emerging as "one of the leading-edge economic sectors for employment, innovation, research, and exports" and warns that Canada doesn't want to lose out on an opportunity to become a "dynamic engine of growth." To do that, the country requires a "massive infusion of physical, intellectual and financial capital," he writes, "or we will assuredly fail in our objective to ensure that Canadians will have access to state-of-the-art health care." Former restructuring head Sinclair believes the reason that people are talking about expanding the role of the private sector in health isn't because they want to undermine the system. They're simply frustrated, he contends. "Their frustration grows as waiting lists go up and the evidence is they can't get a doctor," Sinclair says. "Something's not right here. And the newspapers are really full of these stories of things that go wrong. And all you have from the politicians, really, is very old rhetoric, now becoming very stale, and the wrangling about who pays. And what about underfunding? "Nothing of any real consequence appears to have been done over the last how many years. I think what happens is that people say, what are the alternatives? Maybe we should get the private sector to do it - with the idea that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector." The good news is that even politicians tire of politics. During his first seven months in the health hotseat, Health Minister Smitherman says he's been surprised by two things. The first is the pace and volume of a cabinet minister's workload. "I think that I knew it but a person couldn't be prepared properly," he says. "It's such a big ministry and because it affects everybody, there's so much interest. "The second thing is the unexpected generosity of politicians from other parties."The coolest part is that for a guy like me, who's a pretty partisan guy, the part I like the most and that's surprised me but also that I really found comforting and kind of reassuring is that everybody wants you to do well - even people who have a different partisan orientation," Smitherman says. "Because it's health care and it means so much to people. "Most people kind of want you to do well, which has been good. I gets lots of support from places where I mightn't otherwise have expected to get it."
(above article by Ann Lukits, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder, Jun.25, 2004)
Smitherman fleshed out to be more like a partisan Liberal demagogue.
On Aug.24, 2006, the National Post’s Don Martin wrote of Carolyn Bennett, a Liberal leadership candidate hoping to replace Paul Martin (who had mercifully announced his resignation the night of the Conservative Jan.23, 2006 federal election win). Bennett “talks about “blending” in the non-profit private delivery of publicly funded health care – precisely the sort of realistic notion that Paul Martin refused to let his health ministers’ debate”. (Blending non-profit delivery? How antiquated is that concept? Isn’t the debate now private - parallel?!) Don Martin notes Bennett’s attack on British Columbia doctor Brian Day, who helped found the Cambie Clinic, Canada’s biggest private surgery, dismissing him as a “poster child for private care”. (With a typically open-minded Liberal attitude like that, no wonder no one bothered to show up at her press conference.)
Dr. Day was named president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association on Aug.22, 2006. He was brought up in a socialist home in Britain and has discussed healthcare issues with Fidel Castro. The Toronto Sun (Aug.23, 2006) reported: “Day said his position on expanding the role of private care has been blown out of proportion. Day said he believes in universal medical care. “I have never supported the privatization of healthcare,” he said. “I believe there is a place for the private sector and public-private partnerships. Defining that role is a task the CMA is pursuing. I will commit to a policy that all Canadians receive timely access to medically-necessary medical services regardless of ability to pay…But I believe the Canada Health Act must be updated for the 21st century.” For these sentiments, Day is vilified by Liberals like Bennett, who herself could be the poster child for the hypocritical, visionless torpor that has infected the Liberal mindset for decades? For years, Liberals stifled healthcare debate and derided anyone who would even dare question their crumbling status quo. On Sept.15, 2006, Bennett dropped out of the race.
Liberal contender Martha Hall Findlay said in the Aug.21, 2006 National Post: “We must start by re-framing the discussion. We must get away from terminology, rhetoric and labels that promote fear and distort the truth.” (Promote fear and distort the truth? Exactly who has been doing that, if not the Liberal-Left?) “For too long, the word ‘private’ has been used as a blunt instrument by political leaders to score political points, and as a scare tactic equated with trying to destroy our healthcare system.” (Wow…are Bradley or McGuinty listening? They might mistakenly think that Ralph Klein or Mike Harris, not a federal Liberal leadership contender, wrote this. Next thing you know, it might even dawn on Liberal hypocrites who had a “hidden healthcare agenda” all along.) Findlay concludes: “we won’t reach those solutions unless we demonstrate the political courage necessary to engage in the honest discussion we urgently need.” But, it turns out that her desire for “rhetoric-free proposals to end the status quo”, is nevertheless, typically forked-tongue Liberalese - it’s still predicated on the same-old status quo: “to save single-tier, universally accessible, publicly-funded medicare.” Isn’t this Liberal earnestness so admirable; all this new found talk about honesty and rhetoric and privatization, from the very Liberals whose stoic rhetorical adherence to socialized medicine was and is a major part of the problem? This “discussion” has been overdue for years: purposefully held in abeyance by Liberals, and suppressed by the NDP.
Why don’t the federal Liberal leadership hopefuls challenge the Ontario Liberal’s restrictive and punitive Bill 8, the so-called 2004 Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act? Dr. Douglas Mark, of the Coalition of Family Physicians, called Bill 8 a “severe obstruction to change…by concentrating power in the hands of government, it prevents much needed innovation and punishes those doctors who attempt it. It is ironic that this Bill, touted to improve the rights of individuals, actually violates a myriad of civil rights, including those of physicians and patients alike.” (Antonella Artuso, Toronto Sun, Jan.26, 2006)
Dr. Keith Martin, a B.C Liberal MP, wrote in "Four ways to fix healthcare" (National Post, Sept.16, 2006) that the CHA be modernized “to allow the private sector to support the public sector by taking some of the demand out of the public system without removing resources. (Allow people to purchase services with their own money separate from the public system, and forbid public monies from co-funding procedures.)…the single-payer (read: government) requirement is a major obstacle to enabling achievement of the other four principles (comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility.) In fact, anyone who works in healthcare knows that all five principles of the CHA are broken in every province, every day, because of the increasing gap between supply and demand.” An ageing population plus rising medical technology costs result in an annual 8% increase in costs, while revenues rise at 3% a year, he writes, and by 2017, healthcare “will consume over 70% of their budgets, an utterly unsustainable burden for any province.” Anyone in Ontario listening to this B.C. Liberal?
By Dec. 2006, the federal Liberals had chosen Stephane Dion as leader, and suddenly re-framed their top priority. “Global warming is the big issue? What happened to medical wait times?” asked Lorrie Goldstein. (Toronto Sun, Dec.27, 2006) Dion’s new priority, or perhaps old hidden agenda, is to Kyoto-ize Canada and cripple our economy by paying billions to buy offshore emission credits. How will we pay for healthcare - with monopoly money?
Tim Scott wrote: “All of you who bought the lies about a Conservative “hidden agenda” to Americanize our health care, and who bought Paul Martin’s “I will save healthcare” bunk during the last election must be a little shocked. Our Supreme Court has sanctified the “scary” two-tier health care system. And you have Paul Martin to blame. Once again, old do-little did nothing and now the Supreme Court has decided for him. And why is our system so bad? Because Martin and Jean Chretien used the money they stole from transfer payments to run huge budget surpluses and to pay for necessities like the gun registry, Adscam and HRDC boondoggles. Health care has only been important to get your vote. But I enjoy the irony that a vote for Martin has led directly to the two-tier system he claimed he was protecting us from. Since I support private care availability, this is the first time Ontario’s terrible voting habits have worked out in my favour.” (Toronto Sun, Jun.11, 2005)
Andrew Coyne wrote that Liberals loved portraying Tories as a threat to medicare, yet it was under the Chretien/Martin Liberals that private clinics flourished. (National Post, Dec.28, 2005)
Don Martin wrote "In the PM's own riding, a two-tier revolution" (National Post, Feb.15, 2005):
"He can see the national headquarters for private health care from his Montreal riding office: a place where cash-for-care clinics stand beside a profit-driven hospital, and patients are charged for "extras" like nursing and anesthesia. When it comes to swearing allegiance to public health care, Montreal MP Paul Martin has taken a hypocritical oath. The PM's defiant stand against private care always seemed more flag of political convenience than banner of personal conviction. After all, Martin's own physician limbos back and forth between the two tiers of care. But an ongoing investigation by reporter Aaron Derfel, now running in Montreal's Gazette, has put the big lie to federal Liberals' claim to be medicare's guardians. They are, in fact, sleepily governing over an astonishing expansion of credit-card care, raising nary a peep of protest as Montreal doctors and surgeons violate the spirit and even the letter of the Canada Health Act. Within a few minutes' drive of Paul Martin's riding, you can buy a new hip or knee, pay a fee for a quick colonoscopy, charge a physical examination or an MRI scan to your credit card or write a cheque for a little extra convalescence time in a private nursing home if the hospital discharge is a tad too hasty. For health-plagued hedonists driven to feel better faster, Montreal offers an express lane to queue-jumping relief. It takes less than 20 days and $12,000 to procure a new hip. No money? No problem: The free government-issue version is available after only 12 pain-filled months on a waiting list. Now, I was one of first patients at the MD-Plus Medical Clinic last fall, the country's first totally private emergency clinic, and loved the first-class treatment. There was one notable moment of unpleasantness, but I dare not elaborate: My editor says he will delete any and all description of the prostate exam. But as I unassumed the, ahem, position, Dr. Luc Bessette pointed out the window and insisted he was offering a very benign service compared to other medical entrepreneurs. "You can buy anything you want just up the road," he insisted, a statement which seemed wildly exaggerated at the time. It was not. What's going on in Montreal is far beyond any tepid push to see more private services billed to the provincial health plan, as proposed by Alberta's notorious Bill 11. It's not even a case of doctors leaving medicare to set up shop as private entrepreneurs. It's nothing less than a compromising of the Canada Health Act by doctors shuffling between public and private systems, charging patients for medically necessary add-ons as they deliver publicly insured treatment. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing amid the search to find sustainable health care. It's just unfair. Alberta lost millions of dollars in federal transfers in the mid-1990s for just allowing eye surgeons to charge a small "facility fee." In British Columbia, they're still losing transfer dollars for allowing extra billing for some upgraded treatments. But in Quebec, the Gazette found a patient, whose surgery was covered by public health insurance, being charged $1,000 for nursing care, $300 for instrument sterilization, $200 for disposable supplies, another $200 for medication, $100 for a dressings and $200 in unspecified administrative charges. Remember, this is the city that elected Paul Martin as an MP. And, lest we forget, it was that same MP who warned that evil-doers Ralph Klein and Stephen Harper would conspire to undermine medicare if the federal Conservatives won the last election. What's clearly happened here is another outbreak of asymmetrical federalism -- robust private health delivery tolerated in Quebec which would trigger punishing fines against any province boldly going where only Montreal has gone before. Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh's reaction Monday was to gulp and decline to talk specifics because he is allegedly "carrying on a dialogue with other provinces suspected of violating the Canada Health Act." That's news to Alberta, where officials have opted to stuff a sock into any talk of violating the Act. "We're going to do more and talk less," confided a Klein confidant. "Ralph has told regional health authorities to stop coming to him for permission to experiment. That speech has triggered unbelievable activity in experimentation." For Paul Martin, privatization of health will become another pounding hangover from the darkest days of an election he was losing. By raising the Alberta bogeyman of privatization in mid-campaign, Martin thought he'd found a winner. "I will look Ralph Klein in the eye and I will say no," he said, pounding a gleeful fist on the podium while his aides beamed. "Unlike Stephen Harper, I will defend medicare."If he looked south from his riding, the prime minister would see medicare morphing into a system of profit-seeking entrepreneurial activity. By turning a blind eye, he's saying "yes." "
As the National Post (Apr.23, 2004) wrote, then-Liberal campaign co-chair David "Herle and other party officials have already conducted campaign colleges and lectured candidates to depict the Conservatives as a party that does not reflect basic Canadian values and is out of sync with voters on core issues such as cutting taxes and defending medicare." Pardon, who's out of sync?!
On Dec.9, 2000 The Welland Tribune reported Bradley’s call for the Harris government to publicize information such as the average age of physicians, specialists and surgeons and the expected numbers needed in the near future. Yet here we are still with doctor shortages in 2007, after 4 years of Liberal rule. Has Bradley ever called on his own government to do so?
In opposition, Bradley called for the Harris government to temporarily lift the billing cap for eye surgeons so that they could serve Niagarans better. (St. Catharines Standard, May 2, 2001) He must have recognized (albeit briefly - blink! - Oops, it's gone!) the negative repercussions upon entrepreneurial productivity by heavy-handed state suppression of healthcare delivery choices – a suppression Bradley helped impose upon doctors during David Petersons’s ‘ban extra-billing’ campaign in the 1980’s! Ironic...
This is from the Ontario Legislative Assembly (Dec.23, 1999): "Mr. James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. "Whereas patients requiring eye care in Niagara are faced with a shortage of ophthalmologists and as a result, are compelled to wait several weeks to secure an appointment with an ophthalmologist; "Whereas, while the shortage of ophthalmologists is in existence, the removal of the billing cap on these medical specialists provides a temporary but essential easing of the health care crisis; "Whereas the solution of the Ontario Ministry of Health removing the exemptions from the billing cap and forcing patients from Niagara to travel along the very busy Queen Elizabeth Highway to receive treatment in Hamilton is unacceptable; "Be it resolved that the Ontario Ministry of Health remove the cap on billing for ophthalmologists in Niagara until such time as Niagara is no longer an underserviced area. I affix my signature as I'm in complete agreement with this petition".
How interesting that healthcare in Bradley's mind can simply be rationed by government tricks and intervention with legislation, 'temporarily' favouring one region, then, arbitrarily favouring another. This kind of manipulative, last-gasp, centralist, statist market interference is Bradley and his Liberal's hallmark. Bradley in this single petition essentially admits that billing caps are/were a failed government construct which contributed to the shortages that the caps were originally supposedly intended to prevent! So his cure is to revert to a pre-extra-billing solution, thereby making a hypocritical mockery of his own Liberal 'rationale' (if you want to be gracious and call it that) to impose caps in the first place! That pathetic Liberal attempt to postpone reality lasted only, what, ten years, before shortages and wait times grew? The Liberals vilified, bashed and demonized the medical profession, especially during Bradley's stint with premier David Peterson. We're still suffering now, in 2007. Bradley is not just some aw, shucks bystander in this planned assault against the medical profession - he was a cabinet minister in the Liberal government. He was part of the problem.
Why doesn't Bradley re-submit his bill again in 2007, using his own example, re-worded to include all patients for all procedures in all of Ontario?! ie:
- Whereas patients, victims of medicare's state-run monopoly, requiring medical care in Ontario, are compelled to wait months for supposedly-insured services which our Liberal government cannot deliver on a medically-timely basis;
- Whereas Ontario's ombudsman has found Liberal-delivered healthcare a "cruel game";
- Whereas shuffling patients off to Buffalo down a busy QEW to receive treatment in the States, and not in Ontario, as ostensibly promised, is unacceptable;
- Be it resolved that the OHIP single-payer health monopoly shall be opened to competition, and that presently-banned private health insurance contracts be restored as a lawful choice to all Ontario citizens.
C'mon, Jim ... or are you going to wait for the courts to decide for you?
How about another hypocritical opposition petition, from the Ontario Legislature Assembly (Jun.12, 2001): "Mr James J. Bradley (St. Catharines): I have a petition that is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario: "Whereas the nurses of Ontario are seeking relief from heavy workloads, which have contributed to unsafe conditions for patients and have increased the risk of injury to nurses; and "Whereas there is a chronic nursing shortage in Ontario; and "Whereas the Ontario government has failed to live up to its commitment to provide safe, high quality care for patients; "We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly as follows: "We demand the Ontario government take positive action to ensure that our communities have enough nursing staff to provide patients with the care they need. The Ontario government must: "Ensure wages and benefits are competitive and value all nurses for their dedication and commitment; ensure there are full-time and regular part-time jobs available for nurses in hospitals, nursing homes and the community; ensure government revenues fund health care, not tax cuts; and ensure front-line nurses play a key role in health reform decisions." I affix my signature, as I'm in complete agreement with this petition."
Does Jim Bradley really mean to say at the end there: 'I affix my signature as 'if ' I'm in complete agreement with this position?! Because the Liberal thing to do is pretend as if you are solving problems! Will Jim Bradley stand up and issue this same petition in 2007, now that he and his Liberals are the government, and the nursing problems still have not been solved?
The Dec.21, 2006 National Post reported that there was a 92% increase in wait times for cataract surgery in the Niagara Health System – and this in Bradley’s backyard. McGuinty also admitted: “The fact of the matter is cancer surgery wait times are up overall by 6.2%.”
When the Liberals took power, they socialized Ontario’s then-private MRI clinics, patting themselves on the back with their disingenuous claim that they expanded access by 20%! Weren’t there more productive uses for tax dollars than consolidating the efforts of the private sector? Opposition leader John Tory wrote in The National Post (Dec.8, 2004): “The government has limited resources to purchase MRI machines. What exactly is the problem if an entrepreneur uses private money to open an MRI clinic if the public system, and only the public system pays for it?” In the Dec.15, 2004 National Post, Liberal Peter Fonseca’s main reason for the Liberal socialization of MRI clinics was that it was the right thing to do. (Actually, it was the archetypal left thing to do.)
Senators Michael Kirby and Wilbert Keon wrote in "The wrong way to fix healthcare": “Purchasing the (MRI) facilities takes scarce dollars out of cash-strapped healthcare budgets and applies them to a purpose that provides no benefit to patients and shortens no waiting times.” (National Post, Aug.10, 2004)
Liberals also had no qualms when it came to appropriating and re-labeling the Conservatives’ pro-active P3 approach to hospital construction. By Apr.9, 2007, the St. Catharines Standard reported: “Dalton McGuinty is ultimately responsible for millions of dollars in cost overruns for large scale, public-private hospital projects across the province, the leader of the opposition said Sunday. Conservative leader John Tory said the mounting costs are the result of McGuinty’s decision to delay the projects when he took office. He said the premier was initially opposed to the controversial P3 financing plan initiated by the previous Conservative government, which allows private sector investors to finance public healthcare centres…“All of this was caused by Mr. McGuinty playing politics instead of just getting on with what was best and building the hospital,” Tory said. Media reports suggest interest costs on a $551 million hospital project in North Bay will ultimately double at the end of the province’s 30 year contract.”
An Aug.26, 2006 St. Catharines Standard editorial, "Finding sustainable healthcare solutions" said: “opponents of private medicine should realize there is room in public medicine for the provision of services from private sources. Diagnostics is a good place to start.” Well, if that sentiment meant anything to the likes of McGuinty, Smitherman, Bradley, or Fonseca, then the Liberals would divest themselves of the diagnostic MRI clinics that they had appropriated from the private sector two years earlier.
On Sept.13, 2006, the St. Catharines Standard reported that the Liberals are “to spend $670,000 more to reduce wait times in Niagara.” Should we be grateful that, of the $2.5 billion the Liberal’s grabbed since 2004 with their ‘health premium/tax’, we’re allotted what amounts to the cost of a coffee for each Niagaran? Is this good value?
As I began writing this essay in early 2006, I felt a Chaoulli-style challenge was looming on Ontario’s healthcare horizon. I thought if only Bradley would use his stature, as Ontario’s longest-serving current MPP, to actively bring forth now real healthcare reform that Ontarians deserve - access to choice. Although I suggested this in a letter to Bradley on Sept.20, 2006, he didn’t have the courtesy to reply. But on May 3, 2007, the healthcare horizon I wrote of became reality: “Chaoulli comes to Ontario” was the National Post’s editorial headline. The Post wrote that Lindsay McCreith, 66, of Newmarket, Ont., “was told he would have to wait more than four months to obtain an MRI to determine if [his] tumour was cancerous. He would then face a further eight-month wait for surgery if the tumour was found to be malignant (which it was) – a total of more than a year from diagnosis to treatment…although Ontario’s monopolistic hospital system could not even diagnose Mr. McCreith within an acceptable time period, he had no legal alternatives within Canada. Fortunately for him, he was able to pay for an operation in Buffalo, N.Y., which he was able to obtain in less than half the time he would have had to wait for the Ontario MRI alone. Consigning Canadians to prolonged pain, loss of income and even premature death in the name of preserving equal healthcare for all is outrageous in a free country. Our laws “make it illegal to spend your own after-tax dollars on your own health, and the health of your loved ones. This violates the Charter right to life and security of the person,” writes Mr. Carpay.” John Carpay is senior director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, which is helping McCreith launch his constitutional challenge to Ontario’s ban on private health insurance: “If he wins,” the Post wrote, “Ontarians would finally be allowed to buy insurance that covers their care when the state monopoly fails them, as it too often does.”
I’ll add that no amount of red-herring America bashing nor lamentful invocations of Tommy Douglas will quell the Liberal’s shameful collusion in Canada’s medicare monster.
Tom Blackwell wrote in (National Post, Sep.06, 2007):
"Lawsuit challenges ban on private care. Patient Treated In U.S.; Wait list almost cost Ontario woman her eyesight. It cost her $95,000, but Shona Holmes says she would be blind today if she had not sought diagnosis, then treatment for a rare eye condition in the United States, circumventing months-long wait lists in Ontario. Her unsettling case has added ammunition to a lawsuit filed yesterday that seeks to strike down provincial bans on private medicine, private MRI clinics and private health insurance. Opening the door to for-profit health care would make the system more efficient and curb the kind of delays that threatened Mrs. Holmes' eyesight, argues the conservative advocacy group behind the suit. The Canadian Constitution Foundation, which is financing a similar case in Alberta, hopes to eventually bring the issue before the Supreme Court of Canada, which has already ruled that Quebec's prohibition on private health insurance is illegal unless health care queues are cut. "France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and Japan have virtually no waiting lists, and all of these countries allow various kinds of private health care," said John Carpay of the foundation. "Canada is unique in the world, along with North Korea and Cuba, in making it illegal." Critics, however, say that evidence shows that private medicine would not help reduce the waiting-list problem, and called the lawsuit a threat to the positive aspects of medicare. Proponents of the case are taking advantage of people like Mrs. Holmes, charged Doris Grinspun, executive director of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. "What to me is so distressing, is when people start to prey on the vulnerability of patients to further their ideological agenda," she said. "I think it is reprehensible." Mrs. Holmes told a news conference organized by the foundation the costs she rung up have been "financially devastating," requiring her husband to hold down two jobs and the family to remortgage their house. The province has so far refused to reimburse her. The Ontario woman said later, however, that allowing private health care is not necessarily the key to solving problems like hers. What is important is that the system offer the kind of patient-centred, compassionate and speedy service she received from the Mayo Clinic."Free [taxpayer-funded] health care is a wonderful thing, if you can access it," she said. "It is wonderful that it is free but if you have no access to it, it is of no value." The foundation hopes to capitalize on the Supreme Court's Chaoulli decision, which said Quebec must either significantly reduce waiting times or lift its prohibition on citizens taking out private health insurance. The court ruled that the ban violated Quebec's Charter of Rights, though the judges were evenly divided on whether it contravened the federal Charter, leaving the law in the rest of Canada less clear. The Ontario case was launched on behalf of both Mrs. Holmes 43, a self-employed mother of two from Hamilton, Ont., and Lindsay McCreith, a retired body shop owner who paid for an MRI and brain-tumour surgery in Buffalo after being told he would have to wait months to see a specialist in Ontario. The statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court yesterday argues provincial laws that bar doctors from billing patients directly -- effectively banning private medicine -- deny patients access to timely care, and so violate the right to life and security of the person guaranteed by the Charter's Section 7. It makes similar arguments about the ban on private health insurance and private MRI facilities. Mrs. Holmes began suffering vision problems and other symptoms in mid-March, 2005. An MRI she received seven weeks later revealed she had a brain tumour between her optic chiasm -- where nerves from the eyes cross over each other -- and pituitary gland. Nevertheless, she said she was forced to wait until mid-July and mid-September respectively to see an endocrinologist and neurologist.Worried about her fast-deteriorating eyesight, Mrs. Holmes travelled in June to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, which concluded the tumour was responsible for her vision problems and recommended it be removed immediately to save her eyesight, and possibly her life. She returned to Ontario, but the neurosurgeon she saw there said additional tests and examinations were necessary, meaning delays of several more weeks. Mrs. Holmes finally decided to return to the Mayo Clinic and have the cyst removed. Within 10 days of the Aug. 1 surgery, her full vision had been restored."
What’s disgusting is that pro-medicare advocates, like Doris Grinspun, prey upon patients by simply propagating the mantra that Ontario’s healthcare works, when in fact, again, it didn’t.
Another Canadian patient was forced to travel to the U.S.for treatment because the reprehensible ideological healthcare monopoly Grinspun so cherishes, failed to deliver.Again, when socialist healthcare rhetoric met medical reality, it was Mayo-1, Ontario-no score.
Please, do not tell Michael Moore of these anomalies in sicko North Nirvana.
Janice MacKinnon, former Saskatchewan NDP finance minister, wrote: “One of the greatest threats to medicare is posed by those who cling tenaciously to the status-quo and claim they are defending Tommy Douglas’s vision of medicare by doing so. Too often in politics, what we cherish most we inadvertently destroy by believing that protecting something means freezing it in time, when in fact protecting it may require dramatic change”. (The National Post, July 14, 2004)
Dr. Merrilee Fullerton wrote: “If we value individual patients, instead of idolizing a “system”, then patients should be permitted to access the care they need, be that outside medicare or outside their country. And doctors should be advocating for patients, not bureaucracies.” (National Post, May 17, 2007)
Les MacPherson wrote: “What kind of cloud-cuckoo-land are we living in where dogs get better healthcare than people. The twisted thinking is that healthcare for the majority requires the denial of healthcare to individuals. This is the same kind of thinking that brought down the Soviet Union…If it’s timely healthcare you want in Saskatchewan, you better have four legs and a tail.” (Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Jan.17, 2004) This in Tommy Douglas’ old stomping grounds, no less.
Hamilton doctor Bill Orovan wrote Canada needs to develop a better mix of public and private involvement when it comes to healthcare. “It’s the issue of paternalism of the state here telling people what they can and can’t do when it comes to their health. Patients should have some rights of choice in this and shouldn’t be told that simply because this is not deemed worthy of being funded by the public healthcare system that they should be prohibited from acquiring it if they want it.” (Hamilton Spectator, Jul.30, 2005)
Wayne Stockton wrote: “If we are going to save medicare, we have to start thinking outside of the box and have the courage to investigate other options. The status-quo just isn’t good enough.” (Toronto Star, Dec.28, 2005)
William Watson wrote in "Canadians ready to change medicare" of a Health Council of Canada study which found that “On the Chaoulli decision, 70% of respondents either strongly or somewhat strongly agreed that: “I should be able to buy services from a private health care provider if I want to. This was despite the fact that 50% (versus 46% who disagreed) thought it would lead to “American-style” health care in Canada. A majority of respondents (55%) thought that “if Canadians were allowed to purchase private insurance for healthcare services already covered under the public health care system,” this would have either a very positive, a somewhat positive or no impact on the Canadian public in general. (64% said it would have either a positive or no impact on themselves or their families.) Asked how they would feel about being able to buy advanced primary medical care for $2,300 per year with a $1,700 initiation fee, a plurality of respondents in all income classes thought it would be a good idea. In fact, among those making less than $40,000 a year, the margin was 52% to 41%, bigger than among those making $120,000 a year or more, where it was 50% to 46%. In another poll, people making less than $20,000 a year narrowly favoured private hospitals, 45% to 44%, while those making $90,000 to $99,000 were opposed to them (44% to 50%). (National Post, Mar.8, 2007)
Dr. Denis Morris wrote: “Our socialist government philosophy, supported by a significant portion of the population who are not sick, have prevented the abolition of the Canada Health Act which, in itself is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights. Canadians get the healthcare they deserve as they do not have the courage of allowing freedom of choice for healthcare in this country.” (National Post, May 12, 2007)
The Canada Health Act is cloaked in misplaced nationalism, portrayed as sacred and immutable - an exclusionary, closed-shop monopolistic end, in and of itself. Ontario should re-interpret its adherence to the C.H.A. as a care standard - a means - which preaches not only universal access for patients, but universal access to providers, in its mission to serve our health needs. Federal reform of the C.H.A. is critically overdue.
Let’s kill Bill 8 before it causes more harm. Let’s institute a new Healthcare Bill of Rights to enshrine healthcare choice options as a right of all Ontarians. Allowing competition to OHIP’s monopoly is a good start. Competition could not only come in the form of for-profit corporations, but also from co-operatives, charities, mutual funds, trusts, non-profits and foundations.
How did we get here?
"Canada's medicare myth began in December, 1966, when the House of Commons approved national health insurance by a vote of 177 to 2. It was politically popular and the cost was estimated at just $88- million. On July 1, 1968, 101 years after Confederation, it came into effect, representing a triumph of the "progressive" 1960s, a time when the economy grew and grew and some believed Ottawa would be able to smooth away regional and socioeconomic inequities in health care delivery. Medicare became an analogy for Canada itself. "In the public mind," says Bob Rae, the former NDP premier of Ontario, "the way we care for the ill is representative of the essential principles of Canadian social democracy."" ("Medicare Myths", National Post, May 10, 2001)
By the time Saskatchewan imposed its own provincial version of medicare on July 1, 1962, former premier Tommy Douglas had, like a carnival grifter, already moved on to foist his socialist scheme on new marks in Ottawa. By 1992, Saskatchewan’s health minister, Louise Simard, was warning: “The province is in a terrible financial state. Maintaining the status-quo is totally impossible.” (Toronto Star, Jun.19, 1992) So, it took only a scant 30 years for Douglas’ own guinea-pig province to feel the terrible economic repercussions of medicare’s socialist shell-game. By 2006, Saskatchewan was denying drug coverage to its own cancer patients. [By Nov. 2007, Saskatchewan elected a new "Saskatchewan Party" government, (a small c-conservative coalition) that beat the ruling NDP. "What Saskatchewanians have have recognized is the antagonism their successive socialist governments have shown to entrepreneurs and free enterprisers has held them back while Alberta with its pro-business Conservative governments and low taxes, has blossomed and grown." (Toronto Sun, Nov.10, 2007) ]
The congenital unsustainability of Douglas’ “Health-Scare House Of Cards” is sadly evident throughout Canada. Should we bestow Douglas the dubious distinction of not only being “Father of Canada’s Fatal Perpetual Waiting List”, but also “Canada’s Greatest Ponzi Schemer”? If a political paternity test was performed on Quebec’s 2005 Chaoulli decision, wouldn’t its shocking lineage as Douglas’ spawn be exposed? An autopsy on our health system would find its cause of death to be a lethal combination of embedded socialism, entrenched unionist rhetoric, and single-payer, monopolistic statism.
Canadians obediently followed the yellow brick medicare road promised us by our “Northern Wizard Of Oz”, only to find that, beyond the fabled socialist curtain of smoke, mirrors and voodoo economics, Douglas steered us to a dead-end. He showed us how to tread water, but not how to swim. He promised us a beautiful rainbow, so ‘real’ that it receded the closer we approached. Yet, for left-wingers, rabid “one-tier” rhetoric still trumps reality, even though we’re not in depression era Saskatchewan anymore.
It was relatively recently, in 1969, that Alberta and Ontario joined the new-fangled federal medicare system. Today, Alberta, B.C., and Quebec recognize the severe flaws in the C.H.A., and are attempting workable, practical solutions while Ontario’s stubborn head-in-the-sand Liberals plod on with their antiquated single-payer dogma.
The Toronto Star (Oct.13, 1986) wrote of Premier David Peterson who “at first talked lamely of the extra-billing right as a “safety valve”. Gradually he moved from condoning extra-billing to condemning it. After a fractious caucus meeting in early September 1983, he announced a change in policy”. The Globe and Mail (Sept.16, 1983) wrote that during this “two-day caucus which Mr. Peterson later described as “heavy”, the MPP’s concluded that the Ontario Medical Association has not kept its promise to ensure service for people who cannot afford to pay above the health insurance plan rates. One of the clinchers was a case in Mr. Peterson’s own London Centre riding.” The Globe and Mail (Oct.20, 1983) wrote: “Mr. Peterson says that for him personally, one individual case crystallized his new viewpoint. Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Penalgan of RR1 Glanworth near London, Ontario, have a 14-year-old daughter suffering from scaliosis, or curvature of the spine. A specialist charged them $1200 for a surgical implant of an electronic device for treatment. OHIP paid only $381.70 for the procedure. Mr. Penalgan, who draws a disability pension, had to borrow money to pay the balance. The kicker was the postscript to the doctor’s letter to Mr. and Mrs. Penalgan: “Once your account has been paid, please call my secretary for your return follow up appointment date.” It was enough to turn even a Liberal against extra-billing.” Of course, the Liberals denied that they were also puppets of the federal Liberals, whose Health Minister, Monique Begin, was at the time demanding that all provinces ban extra billing. And let’s not forget, Peterson made this policy change not at a Liberal party policy convention, but in caucus.
Jennifer Lanoe (Windsor Star, Oct.23, 1989) wrote about the Liberal’s “elimination of OHIP premiums by replacing them with Bill 47-Employer Health Tax (EHT)…Do you think your property taxes are too high now? Better start saving for January 1990…MPP Remo Mancini (L-Essex South) doesn’t think this is asking too much to support the best healthcare system in the world. But if it is the best health care system wouldn’t people purchase it voluntarily? And, also, the government is not asking us, it is forcing us. Or is there no difference in political parlance. If Bill 47 is enacted it will throw us down the black hole of tax increases. If Bill 47 is to tax us at 1.95 per cent in 1990 what is to stop the government from taxing us at eight per cent in 1993? Or even 100 per cent in the year 2000? Nothing. Bill 47 is not law, yet. Oppose it or put yourself in the ostrich position. When your head is buried in the sand the enforcers of Bill 47 will know exactly what to do with the end left exposed.” As this prescient letter shows, the Liberals, including Bradley, did know exactly what to do – and today we see their resultant healthcare mess.
Dave Scears wrote: “What is wrong with our healthcare system? Government, that is what. In 1966, my healthcare was taken care of through private insurance. The cost was reasonable at about $1.98 per week and my coverage was comprehensive. Around 1967-68, the government took over the healthcare insurance and the cost nearly doubled, but was still very reasonable. In 1973 or ’74, the Ontario Hospital Association asked the unions to open their contracts because they wanted to give every hospital worker a $47 per week raise. In the 1980s, the government of the day decided there was a fat cow to milk and so took the payments that the general public paid into the health care system and turned it into general revenue. Then they gave the health care system a budget. In the late 1980s, the government’s next blunder came in the form of taking the responsibility of paying for healthcare from the public who used it and placing it on the employer. In the next move, the government issued the now familiar red and white plastic cards to anyone who had an address in Ontario. Now all those people who had relatives abroad could apply for a health card for them. All they had to supply was an Ontario address for their relatives and their relatives were covered. Many of them did this. Even U.S. citizens who had a summer cottage could apply and be covered. In a visit to the hospital for an operation, my wife met a lady she had worked with. My wife asked if she was having an operation. “No” she replied. “My mother from Pennsylvania is having one” Then she showed us her mother’s health card. There was nothing wrong with our health care system until the government stepped in – and their blundering continues.” (St. Catharines Standard, Feb.26, 2004)
Sally C. Pipes wrote: “The socialist ideal that society rather than individuals should be responsible for providing citizens with healthcare can no longer be sustained.” She quoted P.J. O’Rourke saying, “If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.” (National Post, Dec.9, 2004)
Reactionary Liberal response to healthcare reform is sadly predictable, but not new. Why should the right of the individual become secondary to the fiat of the health-system? And why did Jim Bradley once say he hates doctors?
The St. Catharines Standard (Apr.21, 2001) editorialized on Liberal opposition to health reform as “bombast”, stating: “The idea that reform is needed is a no-brainer. As currently constructed, Canada’s healthcare system serves as a black hole for public funds”. The Harris government said: “Responsible choices and tough decisions are needed not merely to sustain, but quite literally to save, Canada’s healthcare system”. Yet Jim Bradley pandered: “They’re looking for a way to impose a two-tier healthcare system with a good deal of privatization in it to save money.” The Standard pounced on Bradley’s tactical rhetoric as typical Liberal “fear-mongering”, pointedly noting Bradley’s use of the “Holy Trinity of catch-phrases designed to stifle any attempt at real reform – ‘two tier’, ‘privatization’, and ‘U.S. style’.”
Eye surgeon Tim Hillson wrote: “The fear of the development of a new two tier healthcare system should a federal Conservative government come into office is in my opinion, misdirected, as a two tier system is already a major feature of the provision of healthcare in Canada…two tier is already here. No government truly saves money when its citizens are unable to access necessary healthcare. We should direct our energy towards helping those people without coverage, instead of pretending that voting Liberal somehow means we are protecting equal access to healthcare.” (Orillia Packet & Times, Jan.6, 2006)
Jack Layton said the NDP would not seek to close private clinics, noting that private healthcare options are a “fundamental aspect of what Tommy Douglas established.” (National Post, Dec.7, 2005). Let’s not forget Douglas insisted that patients co-pay as well. And let’s recall that Layton himself was a satisfied former Shouldice Clinic patient, though he claims he “wasn’t aware” that it was a private Canadian clinic – the exact kind of facility Layton claims he’s opposed to. (Ottawa Citizen, Jan.13, 2006) Pandering to his socialist base “Layton then vowed not to make that “mistake” again.” (National Post, Jan.16, 2006). Hey, Jack- is it “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” or is it “do as I say, not as I do”?
Brian Day wrote: “In B.C., an NDP government oversaw the largest growth of private clinics in Canadian history. Our own Cambie Surgery centre, the largest private facility of its type in Canada, was launched in the middle of the 10-year term of a NDP provincial government. Among our clients are numerous NDP politicians, union leaders and their families who profess to be proponents of a public system, yet abandon their loosely held values when it comes to themselves or their friends.” (National Post, Jan.4, 2006)
Ontario Liberals, in the summer of 2004, without notice, proceeded to de-list health coverage (instantly creating another tier) and imposed a massive new $2.5 billion “health premium”, which they at first even denied was a new tax. Is it any wonder Liberals were branded as opportunistic liars? The Toronto Sun (Mar.23, 2007) wrote in Dalton: Why should we believe you? that “McGuinty imposed the largest single tax-grab in Ontario’s history three years ago, his so-called health premium…Worse, McGuinty brazenly did that after promising during the 2003 election campaign that he would not raise taxes during his first mandate as premier. In short, he lied to us then. So why would anyone believe him now, on anything he has to say in this budget?” When McGuinty said in the Toronto Star, Dec.17, 1996, “I guess we’d better get ready – here they come: user fees and de-listed services – a new part of healthcare in Ontario”, little did Ontarians know he was foreshadowing not Mike Harris’, but his own record!
The St. Catharines Standard (Aug.25, 2006) reported that the Liberals posted a budget surplus of $298 million for fiscal 2005-06. Conservative finance critic Tim Hudak demanded that the Liberals eliminate the health tax, but of course, finance minister Greg Sorbara refused. By Aug. 2007 Ontario's budget surplus was revealed by the Liberals to be$2.3 BILLION!! "It's funny how budget surpluses always arrive just in the nick of time - right before an election," wrote Christina Blizzard (Toronto Sun, Aug.22, 2007) It's also funny how the surplus was also nearly equivalent to the amount that McGuinty raked in from his "health-tax" estimated at $2.6 billion annually. Yet, Smitherman said “there’s no way in the province of Ontario that you can eliminate the healthcare premium and not have an affect on health care spending.” (St. Catharines Standard, Jan.27, 2007) And so Ontarians continued to overpay for the Liberal lackluster health-scare system. Jeff Gardiner wrote: “People are suffering and dying because Dalton McGuinty chooses to hoard all of that money until the upcoming election, when he will no doubt try to woo voters with lots of spending to get himself re-elected.” (Sept. 2, 2006, Windsor Star) By June 2007, that exactly what the Liberals began to do.
John Tory said he’d phase-out/eliminate the health tax and increase spending by growing budget surpluses and cutting waste. “Tory’s four principles in re-shaping the health-care system are: providing timely access to services, a significant increase in spending, improvements in care, and increased respect for patients and workers.” (St. Catharines Standard, May 25, 2007) Doesn’t a workers’ performance determine his paycheque, which is the sign of respect? Wouldn’t a patient be respected when the patient is the payer for that worker’s services? Isn’t the ‘growing of budget surpluses’ tantamount to planned over-taxation? Tory also said he would oppose two-tier healthcare and improve access to family doctors. This sounds like status-quo talk, when what we need is for Ontario’s health institutions to start planning for the very real possibility of competition, private insurance and consequential private delivery being phased into our system due to a court-imposed challenge, such as that already begun by Mr. Lindsay McCreith, detailed later in this essay. We must anticipate and plan for a smooth transition to a non-monopoly health system.
“Hospitals account for the lion’s share of Ontario’s health care budget - $12.2 billion - but that money is handed over in large chunks, based on a formula few appear to understand and fewer still can justify. “We don’t even actually know exactly what we’re buying”, Health Minister George Smitherman told Osprey News”. (St. Catharines Standard, Aug.8, 2005) How reassuring is it that the minister doesn’t have a clue of what his ministry is buying? But three months earlier (May 12, 2005) the National Post reported that healthcare consumed 40% of Ontario’s total spending. Liberal Finance Minister Sorbara said “We have to be able to spend smarter.” (A year later, they went on to be embroiled in the $32 million Mike 'Colle-gate' grant-scandal, approved by 'spend-smarter' Sorbara)
The Globe and Mail (Feb.24, 2007) wrote: “The Ontario Government has injected an extra $120 million into nine hospitals this week in an effort to address chronic problems in a healthcare system saddled with too many patients and not enough beds.” “CHRONIC PROBLEMS” in the McGuinty/Smitherman/Bradley Liberal hospital system, in 2007? Liberals will say ‘This is impossible’…(Cue Mike Harris bashing) “NOT ENOUGH BEDS”?? Didn’t the St. Catharines Standard run a headline on Sept.30, 2006: “More hospital beds not in the cards: premier”? Ontario Hospital Association CEO Hilary Short said: “There are serious and intractable problems that face the health-care system.” “SERIOUS AND INTRACTABLE PROBLEMS”?? It’s an election year…take your 120 million and be quiet. There is no such thing as serious, intractable problems in Ontario’s Liberal-run healthcare monopoly. (Cue Harris bashing!)
The Toronto Star wrote (June 18, 2007) “Hospitals around the province are being caught in a squeeze between government demands for them to balance their budgets and the opposition of community groups to any perceived cuts in service.” “You can buy 120 [hospital] memberships at $25 each (and) take control of a $320 million operation,” said Scarborough Hospital CEO Hugh Scott, calling the Liberal’s governance model a “free-for-all” that should be changed. The Star wrote, “Smitherman has heard these calls but suggests hospital boards should not hold their breath waiting for him to act on the governance issue.” “The hospitals have all been required to sign “accountability agreements” with the government committing the CEO’s to balancing their budgets, which in turn, requires them to pursue cost savings. “The CEO’s have now become the fall guys for the minister of health,” says Conservative health critic Elizabeth Witmer.” ” (Similar to what the Liberals did with their LHIN firewall earlier in this essay) The Star reported that Scarborough Hospital is under threat of having its board dismissed; Sarnia’s Bluewater Health CEO David Vigar was forced to resign; Alliston’s Stevenson Memorial Hospital’s board resigned under threat by activists, forcing the government to take over its management; Orillia’s Soldiers’ Memorial hospital thwarted an activist takeover by giving them three board seats. About 20 hospitals sent the Ontario Hospital Association a letter that they “are being targeted by community activism, and those that are not yet targeted see a province-wide pattern that causes concern.” Of course, this mayhem in Ontario hospitals is of no concern to Smitherman and his Liberal puppet-masters, who just finished saying we have “to spend smarter” even though we “don’t actually know what we’re buying.” “Everybody has to be accountable,” Smitherman preaches, yet takes no responsibility for his duplicitous policy choices.
The Globe and Mail (Sept.26, 2003) noted Dalton McGuinty’s campaign proclamation: “I stand against the Americanization of our hospitals.” (What was that supposed to mean – he’s against Canada having pre-eminent world class medical centres rivalling Johns Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic, or the Cleveland clinic?) Yet Liberals, while publicly condemning ‘U.S.-style healthcare’, utilize that same scapegoat of a system to alleviate and downplay Ontario’s own shortcomings. There was a lot of political currency in pandering to chauvinistic Canadian anti-Americanism – a Liberal political technique that by 2006 had become transparent. But, even if Ontario were next door to Sweden, a Liberal would likely find a way to disparage their healthcare system too. Smitherman once cryptically explained ours by saying: “If you look around Ontario, you can use the word “system” all you want, but we don’t have one.” (Welland Tribune, Aug.11, 2005) You can use the word ‘minister’ all you want, too, but do we have one?
In Sept. 2006, when Cambridge Memorial Hospital hired, through Med-Emerg, a private sector agency doctor for their emergency room because they had no other choice, who can forget McGuinty saying, grudgingly, that “if we have to choose between a privately funded doctor and no doctor, then I’d take the privately funded doctor, obviously.” Yet, “no doctor” is precisely what McGuinty’s monopoly supplied! McGuinty said, regarding this hiring: “It’s unacceptable and it’s unsustainable over the long term.” (Globe and Mail, Sept.28, 2006) But the actual irony is, it’s McGuinty’s system which is ultimately unacceptable and unsustainable. Liberals can’t seem to recognize when stark medical reality supersedes their own rhetoric.
Has Bradley ever challenged his cabinet colleague’s view that Ontario has a dysfunctional, non-existent health system? What monopoly then, did Bradley’s Liberals dump about 34 billion 2006 tax dollars into? And how is Bill 8 making anything better?
Dr. Livius Timko of British Columbia wrote: “I was troubled by the attack by George Smitherman, the Minister of Health in Ontario, on the incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association. Mr. Smitherman said Dr. Brian Day poses a “grave threat” to the country’s medicare system because of his commitment to private-sector involvement in healthcare. In my experience as a physician and as a husband, father and grandfather, I believe a “grave threat” to healthcare comes rather from dogmatic and left-leaning politicians.” (National Post, Sept.13, 2006)
On Sept.13, 2006 the National Post called Smitherman’s “populist” attack on Day (just before the Sept.14, 06 Parkdale by-election which the Liberals lost to the NDP) “an obvious attempt to curry favour with left-wing voters…It’s bad enough that Mr. Smitherman refuses to adopt a more open-minded approach toward private care, which would reduce wait times by alleviating the burden on the public system while compelling it to provide Ontario with better service. It is even worse that he is willing to alienate doctors in search of a few extra votes.” Also, let’s not forget the time Smitherman shamefully referred to Ontario’s optometrists as “terrorists”.
The Sept.12, 2006 St. Catharines Standard reported Smitherman harshly targeted Day as “a grave threat to our values and our economic competitiveness. …You’re either ‘wid’ us or ‘agin’ us.” Funny, how the very same description can be made of the Liberals and their reactionary minister. Current CMA president, Dr. Colin McMillan called Smitherman’s speech “insulting” to doctors working to save medicare. “I’m not prepared to allow Canada’s doctors – and particularly the doctors of Ontario – to be the lightning rods for the deficiencies in the health system.” But power-hungry Liberals will use any trick in the book to put their dogma about patient care (perception) ahead of patient care (practice). Scape-goating doctors worked out nicely for Peterson and Rae in the 1980’s and early 90’s, but not so well for patients, nor our system. The lesson learned from the Chaoulli decision was that access to a healthcare waiting list is not the same thing as access to healthcare. It is this ‘perception vs. practice’; this ‘bait and switch’, which, to the detriment of patients, has become the essential premise of medicare's undeliverable promises.
“Medicare needs more bogeymen like Day. We’ve got to think out of the box where we’ve been suffocating our public health care system too long.” (The Victoria Times Colonist, Sept.23, 2006)The Ottawa Citizen editorialized on Sept.13, 2006 that “Smitherman has been a poor health minister. His attack on Dr. Day reaches new and unacceptable depths. McGuinty should fire him.”
Klaus Winter wrote: “Very apt of the Post editorial board to call George Smitherman a pit bull. Will Ontario’s Health Minister now ban himself, as he did with others of his breed? One can only hope.” (National Post, May 10, 2007) Wasn’t it attorney general Michael Bryant who banned pit bulls? Good point, though.
What qualifications did Smitherman bring to the health portfolio, other than that he had been a junior aide to former Premier David Peterson? Let’s recall what the Ottawa Citizen wrote back in Dec.31, 1985; that “Peterson has chosen to [be perceived as bold and decisive] by launching populist attacks on “privileged” groups in society – doctors, lawyers, landlords, businessmen.” Isn’t Smitherman doggedly just continuing the traditional Liberal doctor-bashing heritage?
The Ottawa Citizen (Jan.28, 2005) reported that Ontario spends an astounding 44.6% of its entire budget just on healthcare. By Sept.20, 2007, during the televised election leaders' debate, Dalton McGuinty twice said that half of Ontario's budget now goes to healthcare. That’s a lot of money taken from our pockets, which we could decide how to spend ourselves. Why should Bradley and his Liberals intrude as intermediaries in a private doctor-patient transaction? Would Bradley dispute The Windsor Star’s Aug.20, 2005 report that: “the Manhattan Institute calculated that a Canadian earning $35K a year pays a stunning $7,350 in healthcare taxes”? Can individual Ontarians not find better healthcare value with our own money? Why not start with the idea of depriving Smitherman of 34 billion dollars - giving it back to taxpayers so they can pay for their healthcare - and work our way from there, rather than start with the authoritarian idea that only Smitherman (and Tommy Douglas’ ghost) can decide how to ration healthcare on our behalf?
“The average middle-class Canadian family pays - wait for this - well in excess of $5,500 a year in cash and taxes just for healthcare. How much more “free” can medicare get?” asked Greg Weston. (Toronto Sun, Sept.14, 2004) And, is it sustainable, or accountable?
Lars Thompson, a Canadian doctor practicing in New York State, said “The fact is if you have good insurance in the States, you’re so much better off than in Canada”. He pays $385 US per month with a $2500 deductible, viewing this as protection like house insurance. Thompson, from a NDP family, also disagrees with Romanow’s stand against any incursion into public healthcare by profit-minded business, believing that Canada should adopt some features of the U.S. system. (Kingston Whig Standard, Dec.3, 2002)
Rachel Marsden wrote that as a Canadian citizen who now lives in the States, she visited a doctor in Vancouver, and, as a non-resident had to pay $50 for the visit. She waited four hours to consult the doctor regarding wrist surgery. “A surgical solution would mean five-to-six months and a small fortune in Canada for a non-resident – or immediate treatment under my $350 per month (health and dental) U.S. insurance plan, plus a $75 dollar hospital deductible. The wrist surgery would be “free” for a Canadian resident. However, last October, while a resident of Toronto, I needed immediate wisdom teeth removal – a medical procedure that set me back $2,000 because it wasn’t covered. Some B.C. doctors close several hours early every day, turning people away because the provincial government places a cap on the daily amount of money they will pay a doctor. As the population ages, the system can’t support it. The answer for both countries is a hybrid system. Those who want fast treatment can pay a bit more for private care, which would take the burden off a government-funded system for those who can’t afford it. And everyone should have to pay a nominal fee for each visit – just as a reminder that your doctor is not your coffee buddy.” (Toronto Sun, July 22, 2007)
Julie Appleby wrote of health reforms in Massachusetts, which instituted a “new law requiring everyone in the state to carry health insurance [ranging from $122-$800 a month]. The lowest premiums will be paid by young adults, ages 19-26; the highest by those over 55. The least costly premium for those in the middle is about $175 a month. The state aims to cover all uninsured, with subsidies for those below 30% of the federal poverty level, which is about $30,000 for an individual. As the first state in the nation to require individuals to buy insurance, Massachusetts’ plan is being closely watched…Uninsured residents will be able to sign up for one of the 28 different plans offered by seven insurers starting in May. Those who don’t have health coverage by year’s end would lose their state tax exemption, worth about $200…The law has already allowed 100,000 low-income uninsured people to join a subsidized state program or Medicaid, says John McDonough, executive director of the advocacy group Health Care for All. While acknowledging the premiums may be too costly for some, he says the cost debate illustrates the difficulty of reform. “One clear thing is that there is no decision that can be made that won’t upset some people,” McDonough says.” (USA Today, Mar.9, 2007) Bradley and his Liberals can fumble and bumble with their America-bashing (despite Bradley’s claim to being a Buffalo Sabres fan), but American citizens are not idly sitting by – they are attempting sustainable reforms in their non-monopoly system…a system which Bradley’s monopolist Liberals invariably end up sending Ontarians to.
Froma Harrop wrote in "Canadian system isn’t the model” (Cleveland Plain Dealer, Feb.27, 2007):
“If you want to sell Americans on universal health coverage, it's not helpful to use a model that makes patients wait five weeks to see a cancer doctor. That's Canada. There is much to admire in the Canadian system. It covers everyone, while spending only 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product on health care. (The United States spends 16 percent.) It is simple and doesn't burden employers with the job of insuring workers and their kin.The flaws, however, are unacceptable. Many of my left-leaning friends nonetheless worship at the altar of "Canadian-style single-payer." (I once belonged to the cult.) That's too bad because there are better universal-access systems to parade through a PowerPoint presentation. A health-care system that tolerates an average 10-week wait to use an MRI machine is not to be copied. The Fraser Institute in Vancouver recently compared Canada's health-care system to about two dozen others — and found Canada's highly wanting. Yes, the Fraser Institute has an agenda: It promotes privatization and in the Canadian context is economically conservative. But its analyses of Canadian health care are sophisticated and honest. Unlike many conservatives in this country, Fraser starts with the premise that universal coverage would be a basic requirement of a modern health-care system. The enduring mystique of the Canadian system surprises Michael Walker, Fraser's founder and co-author of "How Good Is Canadian Health Care: An International Comparison of Health Care Systems." Even some people who have studied it, Walker told me, cling to "the mythology rather than the reality." The report leaves out the United States, because it does not offer government-guaranteed health care. But for Americans trying to create a rational and humane health-care system, a discussion of Canada's shortcomings offers some useful not-to-dos:First off, don't go the single-payer route, where the government picks up all the bills. Americans often confuse "universal coverage" with "single-payer." The great majority of universal health-care systems are not single-payer. They allow private coverage into the mix. Why is that better? For one thing, patients who use private medical services reduce the load on the public system. In New Zealand, for example, private hospitals do more of the common, less invasive procedures, leaving the high-tech care in the publicly run facilities. Private competition also helps assure quality. Without an alternative, the monopolistic system becomes an "uncontested standard" that may be inferior. There's also the freedom argument. People don't want to be told that they can't spend their own money on goods that would benefit them — and who can blame them? Canada and a few others take pride in not asking patients to pay a cent of their health-care costs, but it's a mistake not to charge user fees. If people don't have to dig into their own pockets when they use medical services, Walker says, "you find yourself giving universal access to a physician for sniffles." Canada's medical free-ride leads to overuse of services. And that may add to the long waiting times — for which Canada is the worst, except for Britain's dismal National Health Service. Looking at health-care proposals now floating around the United States, Walker prefers the vision of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, because it resembles the Swiss system. "In Switzerland, you must have insurance," he says. "If you can't afford insurance, we'll pay for you, but there's a minimum package that you must have. "Many paths can lead to a health-care system that serves all, offers high-quality medicine and doesn't waste taxpayer dollars. Americans who want to get there would do well to drop their fixation with Canada and look across the Pacific and Atlantic for inspiration.”
What’s interesting is that Harrop is seen in the States as a fan of socialized medicine, yet, obviously, not of ours! Re-reading her column again, now knowing that it is from a left-wing viewpoint, leaves little for us to cheer for. When even pro-medicare Americans recognize that Canadians are escaping to the States because of our systems’ failings, and recommend avoiding ours as a model, shows we need to do more. Oddly, we need to be more like them in many ways, as they seemingly are trying to tie themselves up with incremental socialized medicine like ours. Well, we’ve been there before with Tommy Douglas, and here we are now. What has forty-plus years of government meddling in Canadian healthcare solved? And why do people simply believe, 'oh, but this time, socialism will be different'?! Nah -it is what it is. And that's what it is in Canada.
Back in a Nov.10, 1990, Windsor Star report, "Cross the river and you’ll save plenty in taxes", accountant Loris Macor estimated that a hypothetical family living in Canada would pay 57% more tax (in 1990) than the same U.S. family. The Star wrote “a family earning $75,000 would save more than $9,000 a year in income taxes by living in Michigan rather than in Windsor.” Macor said “The keys to tax savings in the U.S. are not the rates…the real difference is in deductions”. He estimated it would cost $2400 to$3400 a year to buy health insurance in Michigan comparable to what Ontario provides. American doctors say the technology in Canadian hospitals is 10 years behind what’s available in the U.S. “Yes, our older people have OHIP,” Macor said, “but what good is it if you can’t get into a hospital?”
On Nov.1, 2000, Bradley gave the St. Catharines Standard a classic ‘the healthcare sky is falling under Harris’ quote. The system, he said, “is under attack and in danger of being scrapped in favour of an American-style two tier system, where the rich are able to buy a place at the front of the line. A two tier system would siphon off critical resources and permit top physicians and nurses to abandon the public system for the financially lucrative private system.” (Five years later, this same argument was raised in, and rejected by, the Supreme court in the Chaoulli decision.) Bradley fear-mongered that Ontario residents only need to look across the border to see a healthcare system where hundreds of thousands of people lost their life savings to pay for medical care. Can’t Bradley envision spending cuts and tax cuts so we can afford our choice of health insurance? Of course not - Bradley says tax cuts are “foolish.” (St. Catharines Standard, Apr.20, 2001) Is the power shift from the statist ‘collective’ to the ‘individual’ so philosophically abhorrent to him and his Grits?
“Nobel economist Friedrich Hayek noted that the left in general suffers from the “fatal conceit” of underestimating the complexity and efficacy of free markets, and overestimating the potential for the regulation of human affairs…Another Nobel laureate, James Buchanan, fathered the “public choice” school, which points out that politicians are just as self-interested in their policy choices as consumers are in theirs. The dangerous difference is that politicians are spending your money to pursue their interests.” (National Post, Apr.11, 2007)
Bradley can fear-monger about the States, but how does that make his system any better? Does he not see how many of his Ontarians are forced to travel to the States for healthcare? Paul Kedrosky wrote: “Most of what we’re seeing when we compare health systems in Canada and the U.S. is policy choices at the margin, not meaningful differences in overall health. The real question…is which system is more sustainable: One that requires an ever-growing chunk of tax-fuelled spending, or one that, while expensive, works because profits drive markets?” (National Post, Feb.24, 2004) Hmm...
“When it comes to food, clothing, and shelter, we have a familiar solution to such problems of allocation; it’s called the market. When it comes to medicine, we’re told that the market won’t work – and so we proceed blindly without any solution at all,” wrote the National Post on Oct.3, 2006. Peter Foster wrote: “Countries do not need to encourage entrepreneurship. They merely need to refrain from preventing it. History shows that coddling “champions” just doesn’t work. It makes them fat, slow and political”. (National Post, May 26, 2007) His comments would aptly apply to our bloated healthcare monopoly.
In the Toronto Sun (Aug.10, 2006) McGuinty said he had no plans to regulate gasoline prices or offset consumer pain at the pumps. (This was months before the gas shortage and dollar-plus/l prices of Feb. 2007, when many stations in Ontario were closed for days, to which the Liberal energy minister Duncan said: “So what?”) McGuinty said: “We are not contemplating using public resources to help reduce the price of gasoline.” Yet, isn’t that what he’s doing with health-care? Why not be consistent with both commodities? On May 4, 2006, McGuinty said in the legislature: “The fact is that prices have been higher in those jurisdictions where they’ve had regulated gas pricing than we’ve had here in Ontario, where it’s not regulated.” Yet, when it comes to healthcare costs in a monopoly-regulated scenario, the Liberals claim deregulation will increase costs.
Margaret Sommerville (founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics, and Law) wrote: “we must be open to all possibilities, including a two stream system - public and private systems operating side by side - as in England and Australia, which are not radically conservative countries. It is ethically unacceptable for Canadian politicians to reject, out of hand, potentially better options simply out of adherence to a fixed ideology.” (National Post, Jun.21, 2004)
“Necessarily reform requires open discussion of seemingly contradictory notions. Foremost is whether universality might in fact be strengthened by imposing user fees” wrote Anne Kingston. (National Post, Feb.24, 2004)
Dr. Roy Eappen wrote that most doctors “believe that the time is long overdue to break the government monopoly on health care…The fact is that every public healthcare system in the world has a concurrent private system as well. It is a matter of fairness. Those who want to get faster care can do so by paying. I do support public care, but I also think private care is long overdue. The government has poured billions into the public system and the same problems remain. Why should we be hostages to the government monopoly? There has already been a Supreme Court decision mandating expeditious care in Quebec. Challenges to the monopoly are now being raised in Alberta and Ontario. It is time for the left to wake up and realize there is role for the private sector in healthcare.” (National Post, July 12, 2007)
Let’s look across the border, as Bradley suggests. It’s politically expedient for Bradley’s government that Ontarians already have an OHIP-funded, private-parallel medicare safety-valve – and it’s in Buffalo, in Cleveland, in Detroit, in Philadelphia. Why is it acceptable to send OHIP patients - captive victims of our healthcare monopoly’s waiting list - to utilize U.S. capacity and expertise, yet American - or any other - providers are banned from bringing that capacity to Ontario? Wouldn’t we be in for a shock if Smitherman, to be consistent, also banned Ontarians from travel to the States for healthcare, claiming that was a ‘violation’ of the Canada Health Act, or of Bill 8?
The St.Catharines Standard (Sept.28, 2004) wrote: "It is a reflection of the fact many Ontario residents are willing to put up their own money for services that are already covered by OHIP because of the frustration of waiting to see their own overworked doctors and then having to join long lineups for particular services. Health Minister George Smitherman, who vowed earlier last week to keep Life Line Screening of America out of the province, saying he would rush sections of the Commitment to Medicare Act through the legislature to do so, referred to the American company as "snake oil salesmen." "These companies prey on fear. They create business by generating a sense of need around services," he said Saturday after the company had cancelled its plans. The Cleveland-based company had planned to send two of its 45 teams to Canada, one in the Niagara area and the other in the Windsor area. The first local clinic was scheduled for today in Dunnville, with others following in Welland, Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, Stoney Creek and St. Catharines. A company spokesperson said Life Line began thinking about moving into Canada when it noticed more and more Canadian customers crossing the border for screening services. "There seems to be enthusiasm among Canadian citizens to do something different and find out if they are at risk for a stroke or aneurysm," said Paula Motolik. That Canadians feel that way is only natural, but the fact that they do just reinforces the need for governments to move quickly and efficiently to make good on promises to eliminate wait times for medical services, not forgetting the urgency of diagnostic and preventive measures. Smitherman and St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley are adamant that such private enterprise incursions are illegal in Ontario and will be blocked. But the best way to avoid future attempts to cash in on health-care fears is to demonstrate to Ontarians there is no need to seek outside help, thus eliminating the potential for profit that naturally attracts the attention of American and other entrepreneurs."
So, Jim Bradley is 'adamant that private medical enterprise incursions are illegal in Ontario and will be blocked', no matter how much he raises our taxes, how he misspends our money, how many patients suffer and die while his snake-oil Liberals peddle their failing monopoly. And this had nothing to do with ideology, right Jim? You're not 'preying on fear', are you, Jim? Your Liberals banned medical services to, let's see, help patients? Like Suzanne Aucoin and others, who found out shortly after this episode how Liberals really care for patients? Unreal!
Where would we be without the States to help us out? On Apr.4, 2006, it was reported Bradley intended to ask Prime Minister Harper to resume efforts to convince Americans to delay their passport law. Is Bradley worried that OHIP might soon have to provide passports as a healthcare necessity, because so many Ontarians are sent south to receive the Liberal-derided ‘U.S.-style’ care, which ‘Canadian-style’ Liberals cannot provide in Ontario? (“Have passport, get lifesaving healthcare,” wrote Jack Boland. (Toronto Sun, Mar.16, 2007)
In 2004, Smitherman (who described himself in the Toronto Star, Feb.19, 2005, as “full of piss and vinegar”) ridiculously “deputized” Ontarians to stop LifeLine, a Cleveland diagnostic firm from crossing the border. “I’ll meet them at the border or confront them where they are. They are not welcome here,” Smitherman fumed. The Cobourg Daily Star asked on Sep.29, 2004: “May one ask why? Mr. Smitherman says American companies have no business trying to sell health care to Canadians because of “the extraordinary inequities that exist in the United States.” He does not say what those inequities are. Nor does he explain their relevance. There is, however, nothing illegal about charging for medical services, even though those services are covered by OHIP. If Ontario residents need diagnostic services, or for that matter, any other medical care sooner than it can be provided through OHIP, why shouldn’t they be able to obtain them in other ways?” Can Bradley clarify this?
Can’t Bradley or Smitherman acknowledge that their (apparently non-existent) healthcare system is on life-support? It was embarrassing that Bradley supported Smitherman’s slithery stunt. What's more frightening is that a Stockholm-Syndrome suffering electorate re elected these Liberals for 4 more years of healthcare destruction.
The National Post’s Mar.19, 2007 editorial “Suffering for Smitherman” asked:
“Can there be anyone left who doesn’t see the extremist ideology of monopolistic public medicare for the superstition it is?” When a private company, Don Mills Surgical Unit Ltd. offered to perform 1500 knee replacement surgeries under contract for the Ontario government, Smitherman huffed: “I will never support the outsourcing of those knee surgeries to any for-profit motivated organization…the not-for-profit public healthcare system is the best expression of Canadian values.” The Post’s editorial responded: “Cheer up, patients: don’t you know suffering is patriotic?” Smitherman, busy hoisting his presumptuous flag of Liberal “Canadian Values”, ignored the fact that this same company already does knee surgeries paid for by the province. The Post wrote: “To politicians like Mr. Smitherman, the Canadian flag is merely a convenient veil for the ugly effects of ideologically-motivated health care rationing. His snap decision, made without waiting for a cost benefit analysis from his own bureaucrats, has nothing to do with any of the traditional stated reasons for opposition to medicare outsourcing. Critics cite higher costs for private care, but Smitherman didn’t say he would consider new outsourcing when the price was right; he said he would never consider it at all…The truth is that formal medicare outsourcing has already become part of the landscape in many provinces - yes, including Ontario, where Don Mills Surgical has been a licensed part of the system for 40 years. The ambitious Mr. Smitherman, who apparently seeks to promote himself within Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet as the up and coming champion of obsolete Trudeau-era statism, may think he can pass off his hypocrisy as “Canadian values”. But we like to think that the voters of Ontario, particularly those with a twinge or two in their knees, know better.”
But Smitherman knows better as well - despite his posturing in the National Post’s Mar.19, 2007 editorial, or in his Post letter Mar.21, 2007, where he wrote that the Liberal position was “not based on “extremist ideology”, but on sound business principles”. When faced with an opportunity to improve healthcare for Ontario patients, Smitherman simply decided unilaterally – and, make no mistake about it, on purely an ideological basis – not to pursue it. He’s the health minister, his ministry runs the health monopoly, and there is no competitive choice for healthcare consumers, so Smitherman does whatever he wants. Justifying his decision on “business principles” is almost laughable, if it weren’t so serious – he’s a dictator in a monopoly holding patients hostage, for cryin’ out loud; with little accountability to provide his captive market with competitive costs, or service, or sustainability. His cost and use of capital in that context is meaningless – Smitherman’s Liberal “principles” consist mostly of pulling more principal from the taxpayers' over-suckled teat. Furthermore, Smitherman was purposefully disingenuous with his Mar. 2007 remarks regarding Don Mills Surgical, if they are compared to what the St. Catharines Standard wrote on Aug.11, 2005: “Smitherman has been also publicly signaling that his government is prepared to allow Ontarians to “augment” their care, cautiously suggesting that should not be threatening, and the province can’t “do it all”. “A lot of people say ‘well, we’re against privatization’, Smitherman said. “But there’s already quite a bit of for-profit delivery within the context of a publicly funded, universally accessible healthcare system. We have a 1,000 independent health facilities in Ontario that already deliver services and are largely doctor owned and operated.” Smitherman could afford to be candid and portray himself as pro-active back then - the momentous Chaoulli decision was just two months old, and the next election was two years away. Smitherman’s slithery about-face by Mar. 2007 against “for-profit-motivated” organizations, not only smacks of pre-election rhetoric (to help pacify the NDP, to whom the Grits lost several by-elections) but is patently inconsistent and an obvious deference to ideology over patient-health - a scary attribute to a Health Minister whose own Ombudsman, Andre Marin, called Liberal-run healthcare a “cruel game”.
In the National Post (Mar.21, 2007) Smitherman defended his inconsistent ban to outsource knee replacement surgeries in Ontario. He claimed that 90% of patients get their knee surgery within 307 days, a 133-day wait time drop in 18 months, trumpeting this to be “progress in the public healthcare system”. Warren Adamson responded to Smitherman’s 307-day wait claim: “Isn’t that a bit like claiming the title of being the world’s tallest midget?” (National Post, Mar.23, 2007) John Tory responded: “In Smitherman’s doublespeak world, Liberal “extremist ideology” becomes “sound business practices” based on “results-based performance measurements”. Yet we learn that the Don Mills Surgical Unit, whose proposal for private surgeries he had rejected out of hand, was offering to provide long-suffering Ontario patients with knee replacements at a lower cost to government than the current status-quo. The Don Mills proposal would see 1500 knee replacements done at a cost $1,082 less than what it costs to perform those same surgeries in community hospitals for a total estimated savings of $1.6 million. Those savings could then be reinvested to pay for another 276 knee surgeries…Blindly letting Ontarians languish on waiting lists because of an ideological aversion to new approaches is the exact opposite of either “performance” or “results”. Patients requiring knee surgery don’t really care how their healthcare is provided, as long as it adheres to the highest standards and they only need to pay with their OHIP card. By rejecting a more affordable and fundamentally fairer option, George Smitherman is betraying thousands of Ontarians in their hour of need.” (National Post, Mar.23, 2007) Richard Baker of Timely Medical Alternatives Inc. responded that Smitherman’s 307-day wait time “isn’t a statistic of which he should be proud, particularly because it is misleading. Wait lists are calculated from the time a specialist determines that surgery is necessary, not from when the patient begins the long process. If the patient has a family doctor, the wait for a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon can be lengthy. We heard from a client today who has a consultation booked for Oct.8, 2008. Then there is the wait for an MRI, typically four to six months. Then the long wait for surgery begins. It isn’t unusual for the true wait time to be up to three years, not 307 days. Is it any wonder that Canadians desperate for relief from the relentless pain of an arthritic knee are electing to pay for their knee surgery? These procedures are readily available, in Ontario or Quebec, privately, for $16,000. The wait time at these clinics is two weeks, compared to two years in Mr. Smitherman’s system.” (National Post, Mar.23, 2007) Robert S. Sciuk responded that the 307-day wait “is 300 days too long. I suppose Mr. Smitherman drinks his own Kool-Aid, believing his own piffle about the government being the best-suited agency to deliver all health care…It speaks volumes that no patient advocacy groups are speaking out on Mr. Smitherman’s behalf. It is becoming abundantly clear to this reader that fresh thinking may be in order. It’s time to put that tired, sick and old healthcare dogma down.” (National Post, Mar.22, 2007) Dr. Merrilee Fullerton responded: “Accompanied by new and often more expensive options for care, the combination of changing demographics and scientific advancements is likely to increase the burden on our monopoly healthcare system, far beyond what it can sustain. It won’t matter that the public system can possibly provide cheaper care than private delivery when entire provincial budgets are consumed by publicly delivered care. Focusing on “results-based performance measurements,” as Mr. Smitherman calls it, may work in the short term, but there is little long term vision in this thinking. In 20 years time…the problems of access will remain.” (National Post, Mar.22, 2007) Michael Campbell responded “the knee-jerk reaction to private delivery is not about the evidence, it’s about some warped sense of political correctness mixed with an ideology favoured only in North Korea.” (Vancouver Sun, Mar.31, 2007)
When Bradley wrote in Niagara News (Nov.23, 2005) his “key priority is to increase access to primary care”, he neglected to mention the caveat written in Liberal fine print: ‘rationing and selective monopoly conditions will apply’. Naturally, like Tommy Douglas, his lofty announcements also did not include any accountable maximum wait time guarantees, or enforceable timelines. Nothing but good old Kyoto-unfriendly hot air. Just a lot of flicking Liberal B.S.
Tom Johnson wrote, when Harris was in government: “Health care spending is at its highest level in Ontario’s history, at 18.5 billion, despite 2 billion in cuts from Ottawa.” He wrote “there have been no cuts in healthcare spending in Ontario,” and that Jim Bradley is aware of these facts, yet keeps screaming about “healthcare cuts.” (St. Catharines Standard, Feb.18, 1998)
Stephen Cook wrote: “The Romanow report confirms the truth about the Harris-Eves record on healthcare, and destroys a great Liberal myth. The myth as told to you by Dalton McGuinty is that the Tories cut healthcare spending. The truth obviously is that in 1995 the Progressive Conservative government increased healthcare spending by $8 billion, which now accounts for 47% of the provincial budget. So the next time McGuinty, a union official, or someone from Jim Bradley’s office tries to mislead you by claiming that the Conservatives cut healthcare, remember the Romanow report.” (St. Catharines Standard, Dec.5, 2002)
Thomas Harris wrote: “Jim Bradley has shamefully voted against every Progressive Conservative increase to healthcare spending since 1995…the Romanow report confirms that the Liberals have created the healthcare crisis and vindicates the Ontario Tories from Liberal spin.” (St. Catharines Standard, Feb.5, 2003) What did Bradley do, besides remain silent, while his Liberal counterparts in Ottawa cut Ontario’s transfer payments year after year?
Brian Lee Crowley and Johan Hjertqvist wrote in Why not ‘Europeanize’ healthcare that in the European Union “if a patient judges that services available in another EU country are better than that at home, the home country authorities must pay for it. They cannot even insist on the patient applying in advance to be treated in another country.” (As happens at OHIP) “In Canada we still have provincial public-sector monopolies in charge of healthcare. They live within their budgets by restricting access to care through queuing and other forms of rationing because they do not bear the costs of the pain and suffering of their patients who have to wait too long for treatment. But give people the power to seek medical care anywhere in Canada and make the home province pay for it and suddenly the power relationship is reversed. Provinces will have every incentive to make needed care available locally and to do so out of improved productivity, not tax increases.” (National Post, Mar.1, 2004) Why can’t the CHA’s tenet of “portability” become a potent patient-driven tool to spur competition amongst the provinces - if they don’t provide service, they lose funding, whether the ‘funding’ is publicly supplied, or is paid for by a patients’ privately-arranged insurance policy.
The Toronto Sun’s Aug.27, 2006 editorial "A better prescription for medicare" asked: “What’s the point of clinging to some unrealistic ideal of a pure government monopoly system (which is not the same as universal healthcare, by the way), if it means people languish on waiting lists?”
Carl Bourassa wrote: “Canadians need to stop being content with a mediocre system just because it’s better than the one in the U.S. and look at options beyond North America and our traditional thinking.” (Globe and Mail, July 5, 2007)
Dr. Khursheed Jeejeebhoy wrote: “I support public and universal insurance for healthcare. But our failure is that the funding for hospitals and associated facilities is donated to the provider. Consumers have no control or choice. The patient is considered an expense to the hospital, not an asset.” (National Post, May 17, 2007)
Shuhei Kaneko wrote: “If changes are not made to our healthcare system, more Canadians will be forced to choose between waiting outrageously long periods of time for treatment in Canada, or traveling elsewhere and becoming heavily burdened with debt. We might as well create a two-tier system in Ontario so that they don’t have to travel.” (Globe and Mail, Jan.30, 2006)
When John Hartig claimed in the St. Catharines Standard (July 2, 2005) that: “Universal healthcare is being killed by the greed of our doctors”, and: “The doctor shortage was therefore artificially created by the doctors themselves”, did Bradley stand up in defence of our local doctors - the few we’ve got? Former PC leader Larry Grossman’s observation in The Ottawa Citizen - back on May 8, 1986 - is still resonant: “Liberal’s main health priority has been to attack doctors by calling them greedy and uncaring.” (Or, perhaps, just sitting back when others do?)
Graham Scott said of the Ontario government: “It sounds strange now, but in the late 1980s, early 1990s, they thought we were going to have too many nurses, too many doctors.” (National Post, Dec.9, 2005)
Michael Valpy wrote about the Ontario Medical Association’s difficulties trying to work with the David Peterson Liberals, which led to the doctors’ 26-day strike in 1986, protesting the Liberal anti-extra-billing Health Care Accessibility Act: “The doctors failed to recognize the fundamental political axiom that, if no one with influence supports your cause, government has carte blanche to do terrible things to you – and end up looking good in the process. The doctors believed their strike to be about professional freedom; the public thought it was about greed….Dr. Ted Boadway, the OMA’s director of health policy, and Dr. David Peachy, the OMA’s director of professional affairs, talked about the previous Ontario government’s scorched earth policy on the OMA and the medical profession. The Liberals, they said, assumed a “messianic mania” to “save” medicare from the doctors. It was (former Liberal health minister) Murray Elston’s policy to take no prisoners, said Dr. Boadway. “If he could have exterminated us, he would have. Jim Bradley (the former environment minister) stood up and said: ‘I hate doctors’. The Liberals acquired a perverse delight in attacking us.”(Globe and Mail, Jan.5, 1991)
How unbelievably sad - pathetic, really... such typically Liberal arrogance. Jim Bradley must feel quite proud.
Cy Marks wrote: “I have been a doctor for 44 years. I have never seen or heard my peers as angry as they are at the unreasonable stance of the present Liberal government, Premier Dalton McGuinty and Minister of Health George Smitherman. The public doesn’t have any idea of just how disrespectful they are of our noble profession and the dedicated group of physicians and surgeons. We’ve never worked harder than we do today and we are falling further and further behind. We cannot make up for the shortages, underfunding and waiting lists. This province has nearly one million citizens who have no family physician and we are losing more doctors each day. The provincial government must deliver on its promise to strengthen healthcare.” (Toronto Star, Feb.11, 2005) Or, perhaps at least acknowledge the costly charade represented by our single-payer monopoly?
Bradley, whose cloudy Liberal vision of universality has yielded an overtaxed, waiting list-rationed system, riddled with doctor shortages, should closely look across the border at Buffalo - and then to other hybrid healthcare jurisdictions - to find solutions, not create ideological obstructions.
In the Nov.17, 2006 St. Catharines Standard, McGuinty admitted breaking yet another election promise - this time about not shutting down coal plants - with the excuse that the Liberals faced a learning curve on their energy policy. Please - whether it is a deceptive election promise on coal, or incompetent progress on health, do we need a government that is learning on the job? Despite having been first elected as an MPP in 1977, Bradley’s stale best-before date hearkens back to the statist Trudeaupian disco days of the last century.
Whether a government forces farmers to work on collective farms, or forces doctors to work in collective firms, the resultant suppression of initiative –Sovietization, if you will – leads to eventual corruption and collapse. We bought into snake oil salesman Tommy Douglas’ voodoo healthcare monopoly – now we’re reaping the resultant rewards of the immutable law of diminishing returns. Douglas’ long-term-grift was a glib, irresistible ‘don’t pay until another day’ pyramid-scheme-style con-job. Canadians expected more, but got less, from Douglas’ pipedream promises; we never expected the “Piper of Universality” would actually ask us to pay, because someone richer was always supposed to be standing in line behind us. And isn’t that the great lure of socialism – that someone else will pay your way; that making the rich poor, will make the poor rich?
Susan Brandes wrote: “There is absolutely no incentive (except altruism) for a doctor to go out of their way to ensure a patient gets properly attended to because all that time and effort are not billable. We have made a mess of our medical care system by structuring its finances so that no one wins: not the doctor and certainly not the patient. Doctors are only reacting according to human nature and financial necessity when they try to cram as many patients as they can into a day. Communism failed because it didn’t take human nature into account.” (National Post, Mar.8, 2007)
Grant A. Brown wrote: “Thirty years ago, the current mess we are in with respect to healthcare…(was) entirely predictable. But today’s politicians do not look back and wonder how their predecessors could have fallen for the old collectivist, bureaucratic “solutions” of the 1960s and1970s.” Yow…it’s like he’s channelling Jim Bradley! “Instead, they lament that their predecessors did not increase taxes and spending on their pet programs even more, in time to avert the crises we are at present experiencing. The day politicians admit that the uncoordinated, free choices of millions of individuals produces better outcomes than coercive, top-down management of the economy by a know-it-all elite will be the day politicians make themselves obsolete.” (National Post, July 19, 2007)
George Jonas wrote that Canada’s Liberals are merely socialists in slow motion, who try to balance one injustice with another; for example, affirmative action. (or healthcare, for that matter.) “They abandoned the individual as the focal point of humanity’s quest for liberty and justice, and focused instead on the group. Rather than equality for each person, they sought parity for every racial, sexual, or ethnic aggregate. Liberals lost sight of the fact that, while equality is a liberal idea, capable of fulfillment in a free society, parity is an illiberal notion that requires coercion to achieve. Guaranteeing opportunity is liberal; guaranteeing outcomes is illiberal.” (National Post, Oct.7, 2006)
Rafael Gomez wrote on what now passes for Liberal ‘equality’: “Gerrard Kennedy, Mr. Dion’s special advisor on election readiness, has suggested that barring men from nominations in some ridings in order to ensure that 33% of Liberal candidates are female is “consistent with our democratic process”. I must disagree. Canada has a strong tradition of promoting equality, but I wonder if the Liberals have taken into account the very discriminatory nature of their announcement.” (National Post, Feb.10, 2007) When it comes to grabbing for power, I venture that they have, and they don’t care. Look at the deal between Dion and Green leader May not to run candidates in each other’s ridings – how democratic is that? Is this agreement the basis of a Green/Liberal merger- the New Gliberal party – short on substance, but loaded with glib rhetoric?
Dr. David. D. Stewart wrote: “Canada was founded on the basis of a philosophy of equality, not egalitarianism. The explanation I like best for the difference between the two is as follows: The philosophy of equality is that the same rules are applied to all, and the best person wins the race. The philosophy of egalitarianism is that you apply the rules differently to each person so that no matter what their virtues, abilities or level of effort, each person finishes the race at the same time. Egalitarianism runs directly contrary to human nature: it breeds dependency and rot while killing efficiency...If your child were lost in the bush, you would not expect society to tell you that, in the spirit of egalitarianism, you were not permitted to search for her yourself. Yet you are told you cannot pay for healthcare for your child when she is sick, no matter how bad the care being offered by the state system.” (Ottawa Citizen, Dec.6, 2002)
John R. Davis wrote: “John Stuart Mill saw liberty as the ability to do as one wished, as long as you didn’t harm others. Harming oneself, of course was your own business. Now all activities are scrutinized by technocrats and lobbyists with an eye to deciding what will be allowed. As long as the government believes there is a fiscal consequence, it assumes the right to intervene. Perhaps as an antidote to this creeping totalitarianism, it should be the right of the individual to opt out of, for instance, medicare, by signing a waiver absolving the government of all responsibility. This would be the first step in taking control of one’s own life, liberty, and security of person.” (National Post, Mar.16, 2005) But, would you still be forced to pay your OHIP taxes?
Robert D. Ogilvie wrote (regarding Vancouver’s Copeman Healthcare’s proposal to open an Ontario clinic) that those patients who sign up should “agree to opt out of OHIP. That way, there’s no double-dipping and the queue jumpers and their clinics can cover all their medical expenses. For the rest of us, the lines will be shorter.” (Toronto Star, Jan.13, 2006) Again, if someone were to “opt out of OHIP”, should they still be compelled, as in a form of negative-option billing, to pay all the taxes to support OHIP, even though they don’t use it? Sounds exactly like reverse “double-dipping” when medicare proponents would force you to pay twice for having opted out. Yet, if that were the case, the public system would theoretically be awash with money, precisely because those patients who opted out are still paying twice; leaving fewer people in the public system, with more dollars per patient to be spent on them. The question is: how long would it take the public system to eat through that advantage, and start whining for even more money, to serve proportionally fewer patients than it had before?
The CBC made a movie about Tommy Douglas, but when will the CBC make a documentary about Dr. Jacques Chaoulli and his long struggle, on behalf of Quebec’s George Zeliotis, against the sacred cow of socialized medicare?
Will the CBC ever make a documentary about Ontario’s Lindsay McCreith, or Shona Holmes, whose supposedly ‘universal’ Canadian sicko healthcare system almost killed them by depriving them of timely access to promised, insured healthcare services?
John Robson wrote in "The darksSide of medicare's champion" about Tommy Douglas' 1933 sociology master’s thesis from Hamilton’s McMaster University:
"CBC viewers recently voted Tommy Douglas the 'greatest Canadian'. How little did they know. The greatest Canadian of all time said we should sterilize mental defectives. Wait. Before you report me to your province's human rights commission for attempting to glorify some neo-Nazi bigot, you should know this: We're talking about Tommy Douglas. The Tommy Douglas. The socialist icon. The father of our vaunted medicare system. The man recently voted the Greatest Canadian of all time by CBC viewers. His 1933 master's thesis in sociology -- The Problems of the Subnormal Family -- staunchly advocated eugenics in the most merciless terms. And almost nobody dares mention anything about it. That Tommy Douglas holds a venerated place in Canadian mythology is beyond dispute. He's not just a hero to left-wing nationalists or CBC viewers. When the Reform party created a portrait gallery of "bridge builders" in their caucus room in 1996, Douglas was there. What's especially disquieting about his flirtation with eugenics is that -- as with Max and Monique Nemni's recent book detailing Pierre Trudeau's youthful anti-Semitism, reactionary clerico-political views and blindness to Nazi aggression -- these are not things that were actively hidden from Canadians. It's just that we chose to ignore them…One cannot simply dismiss these views as youthful folly; when Douglas wrote them, he was nearly 30 years old.From the point of view of the modern left, much is -- or should be -- profoundly troubling in Douglas's thesis. He flings about terms like "subnormal," "defective" and "moron" and condemns unwed motherhood in harshly judgmental terms. He speaks of women "guilty" of abortion and grouses about tax money as well as morals, noting that one "mental defective" let out of an asylum "lived as a prostitute" and produced two "mentally defective" children who were also institutionalized. His conclusion: "The initial cost to the taxpayer has been tripled in this case."… Thus we come to Douglas's most appalling proposal: "Sterilization of the mentally and physically defective." To meet anticipated criticism, he adds: "medical science declares that it is possible to be sterilized and yet have sexual intercourse. In the main, this is all the defective asks."…Contrary to occasional allegations, Douglas's 38-page master's thesis actually makes no reference to race, direct or indirect. It is almost important to note that, while Douglas never seems formally to have repudiated the views expressed in it, he does seem to have abandoned them. Thomas H. and Ian McLeod's valuable 1987 biography, Tommy Douglas: The Road to Jerusalem, notes that he repeated these ideas once, publicly, in a 1934 article for the Research Review, a journal put out by the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). But after becoming Saskatchewan premier in 1944 (while the Nazis were implementing their own mass eugenics program in Europe), Douglas rejected proposals for eugenic sterilization legislation of the sort his progressive colleagues in the United Farmers of Alberta had passed in 1928. Professor emeritus Meyer Brownstone of the University of Toronto adds that, while in power, Douglas worked hard to improve conditions in Saskatchewan mental asylums.Moreover, while in 1934 Douglas was expressing conventional pacifist views, in 1936 -- as the Nazis were working toward purifying the German race through "racial hygiene" laws and the forced sterilization of those deemed physically and mentally "unfit," culminating in forced euthanasia programs and ultimately the death camps -- Douglas paid a personal and apparently eye- opening visit to Nazi Germany. He returned calling Hitler a "mad dog." In 1938, Douglas denounced the Munich Pact, telling Parliament that "Yielding to dictators does not buy peace; it merely brings about demands for further concessions."… (Now there’s a thought for Taliban Jack Layton to mull)
“Arguably, one could oppose Hitler's military aggression and still be a bigot. But Douglas's horror at the militarized apparatus of repression that he witnessed in Germany might have had something to do with his reconsideration of the idea of interning "defectives" in camps, where coercive eugenic medical procedures were performed. What is peculiar is that this part of Douglas's life should have disappeared entirely from the official Canadian narrative. The CBC biographical film aired in March, Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story, which admits at the outset that "characters, locations and events have been composited, condensed or fictionalized for dramatic purposes" -- and which the CBC pulled in June because it had treated Douglas's political rival James Gardiner unfairly -- omits any reference to the nature of his graduate studies. And the Canadian Encyclopedia's online entry takes us from Douglas's "further academic studies in Christian ethics" straight to his respectable political activism…Actor Michael Therriault, who played him in Prairie Giant, admitted to a reporter in March that he'd never heard of Douglas before auditioning for the film. "Most of my friends didn't know who he was either," he said…And socialized medicine is not working as well as the CBC hagiography implies, not least because, as Douglas himself admitted in 1982, he and his colleagues got rid of market pricing, but never got around to figuring out how to make central planning work -- not exactly a minor oversight. But such considerations are beside the point; before anointing T. C. Douglas a secular saint, Canadians might have at least been thorough enough to let the devil's advocate mention eugenics. Instead, The Problems of the Subnormal Family went down the memory hole and didn't come back up. The McLeods' favourable biography deals with it frankly, and references to it crop up here and there on the Internet -- but you won't even find the actual text online. And McMaster University library has, all these years, been sitting on Tommy Douglas's own handwritten notes about the subjects of his dissertation. Were such a personal artifact to emerge about the intellectual development of truly important American historical figures -- say, Abraham Lincoln or George Washington -- it would attract enormous attention, even if it was in some ways embarrassing.Since Canadian nationalists reproach Americans for their tendency to uncritically mythologize their past, shouldn't we be willing to examine our own a bit more closely? Americans know -- and mention often -- that Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner, and historians have publicly aired suspicions that his slave Sally Hemings was also his concubine. Why can't we discuss Douglas's blunder? Maybe it's because, in the words of George Stroumboulopoulos, Douglas's "advocate" in the CBC's Greatest Canadian contest: "This is what it all boils down to -- the 49th parallel. It's the dividing line between our way and their way. And did you know that on that side every 30 seconds somebody declares bankruptcy because of medical bills? What I'm saying is, Americans go broke because of being sick. I just can't tell you how glad I am that we don't live that way. It's all thanks to Tommy." A morality play this simple has no place for subtle shading of character or historical cause and effect.Douglas is famous for such bons mots as, "The trouble with socialists is that they let their bleeding hearts go to their bloody heads," and "The left in Canada is more gauche than sinister." Even his flirtation with eugenics was mostly gauche, especially when we remember that it took place just before the horrors of Nazism, an ideology against which he was literally willing to take up arms. What seems truly sinister is the silence that now reigns on this imperfection in a revered national figure." (National Post, July 11, 2006)
Yeah, Strombo: thanks, Tommy!
Avuncular American left-wing propagandist/polemicist/"rotund rabble-rouser" (National Post, Jun.29, 2007) Michael Moore’s 2007 film, Sicko, tries to demonize his U.S. healthcare system, and glamourize our Canadian one. However, if Americans agitating for some pipedream form of universality, while downplaying our killer-waiting-list experience, get their way, they'll deprive thousands of Canadians who are now forced to rely on the U.S. system, because our sicko health-scare monopoly can’t provide us necessary and timely treatment. What’s with California’s new-found itch to institute a quagmire of publicly-funded healthcare? Do they want universal shortages, with patients going to Nevada, or Mexico, for treatment? Has no-one there read Quebec’s Chaoulli decision, and seen that it foreshadows California’s future if it unwisely chooses to emulate Canada?
Moore, who in an earlier film claimed that Canadian gun control is so stringent, we don’t even lock our doors (oh, brother), claims that Canadian emergency rooms, like in London, Ontario, deal with patients in 45 minutes. Yeah…whatever, dude. That's an exception, not the rule - as are many of the so-called pitfalls of the U.S. system. The Toronto Sun (Aug.17, 2007) wrote there were "audible groans" from the theatre audience to the London segment, during a publicity-stunt (or "effective propaganda"' as Liberal Gerard Kennedy called the film) screening set up by the pro-medicare nurses' group, the RNAO. The screening was attended by Smitherman, who "laughed at some points before leaving halfway for other business", and federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who said after the movie "We know that we have awful wait times in this country...On a per capita basis it's not very good, the number of doctors and nurses that we have in Canada...In many provinces it's almost impossible to have a family doctor." What an odd criticism from Dion, that by admitting Canada has severe healthcare issues despite the imposition of medicare, shows Moore's premise about Canada is essentially full of hot air.
Moore said (Toronto Sun, May 20, 2007): “You’re in a longer line than we are because you get to live three years longer than we do. Why is it that you, the French, the Brits, have a longer life expectancy? A baby born in Toronto has a better chance of living to its first birthday than a baby born in Detroit”. When some of Moore’s wacko claims were challenged on Wolf Blitzer’s CNN show, July 9, 2007, he seemingly had a meltdown about advertisers, Iraq, and big pharma. Jeffrey Simpson wrote (Globe and Mail, July 11, 2007): “To suggest, as Mr. Moore does, that [U.S.]hospitals are throwing people into the streets for lack of insurance grossly distorts reality.” Can Michael Moore be manufacturing dissent? Like Americans, Canadians are forced to go to overcrowded emergency wards to access a doctor. Moore makes a great stink about how Americans are forced to pay for an ambulance ride – what, is ours free? Or that Americans have to pay for dental – what, is ours free? Or that we’re free to choose our doctors – yeah, if we can even find one first. Or that U.S. insurers play around with their policy holders - what, OHIP under the Liberals doesn’t do the same thing - deny treatment, or simply cut coverage altogether? Haven’t Liberals increased our premiums and decreased our coverage since they were elected in 2003? What kind of fairy-tale mirage of “universality” is that? Does it matter to Moore that Ontario's Liberal government pays more per person to feed prisoners than it does to feed seniors in state-run long-term-care facilities? (Toronto Sun, July 22, 2007) Moore doesn’t ask whether Canadians have a choice to switch to another healthcare payer. The inconvenient truth Moore ignorantly fails to acknowledge – or simply chooses to ignore – is that Canadians are forced to flee our supposed Canadian nirvana of a system to his supposedly awful States for treatment. The National Post (Jun.29, 2007) wrote "Moore says documentary filmmakers don't tell all sides of a story, but neither do print journalists." But, do all print journalists or documentary filmmakers let their personal biases sway the context of their projects? Credibility is still a matter of professional pride for some. What's Moore selling - a mockumentary; a crockumentary; a crockuganda; agitprop; pre-scripted-reality; a fictionalized dramatization of his own opinions (real or otherwise), however skewed they may be? Moore said "The things that are opinions in the film are mine. Those opinions may be right or wrong... But when I say something in a film, I need you to trust that that's true." Well, the best thing that can be said is that Moore's no journalist, and that depictions of an open-doored Canada with one-hour emergency-rooms are palpable fiction, on the same level of 'reality' as TV wrestling; caveat-emptor info-tainment which should not be trusted. Certainly, Moore is an incredible entertainer. On Jun.27, 2007, Michael Moore appeared on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show shilling Sicko. Moore said “We need universal healthcare in this country and we need it organized, coordinated and run by the government and not by private insurance. Private insurance spends about 15-30% on overhead, depending on what company it is, overhead, profit, bureaucracy, paperwork. The government-run medicare program” [which government?] “they spend 3% on overhead. The Canadian government spends 1.7%. It’s actually less bureaucratic to have the government running something like this.” In Canada, the provinces deliver healthcare, and, Ontario’s premier Dalton McGuinty acknowledged in 2007 that healthcare already devours 50% of Ontario’s entire budget! When told about Canada’s universal healthcare woes, simple-minded pro-medicare Moorists simply bleat on about one Roy Romanow-ish “solution” - just spend more, you’re not spending enough of your GDP! Apparently, half of our government’s budget spent in one non-competitive monopoly isn’t enough! Moore’s boorish attitude toward ‘overhead and profit’ completely ignores why healthcare in the States is sustainable, unlike Canada’s, where our choice is to pay exorbitant taxes to wait in line for state-run healthcare, or run to the States for treatment! Moore doesn’t make the connection that single-payer healthcare, modelled after Canada’s, will inevitably result in the deterioration of the U.S. health system. Moore says that in Canada, we think that “money should never enter into the equation” when the state runs health care! Is he flicking kidding? It’s all about money - high healthcare taxes AND premiums, no choices, waiting lists, and no accountability from the government bureaucracy.
A vitriolic Moore fan was Ottawa Citizen columnist Janice Kennedy, who wrote July 8, 2007: “You want me to die because the procedure I need might compromise your profit margin…Not in Canada.” Has Kennedy (or Moore) missed the massive twenty-plus-article series published by the St. Catharines Standard about Suzanne Aucoin’s shabby treatment by the Liberal’s OHIP monster? Hey Janice…Do you want fellow Ontarians to die while being denied drugs and treatments so as not to compromise George Smitherman’s Liberal no-choice, single-payer ideology? (Because that’s exactly what’s happening – yes, here in Canada, in Liberal-run Ontario, in 2007.) In a rebuttal to Kennedy’s polemic, Merrilee Fullerton wrote: “Painting public care as saintly and sacrosanct and private care as leech-like is not the way to find solutions. More reasoned discussion with less sensationalism should be the way forward.” (Ottawa Citizen, July 11, 2007)
Let's look at another example of where Moore's supposedly-sicko American system had to clean up Canada's universal inadequacies, regarding the Aug. 2007 birth of Alberta's Jepp quadruplet girls. "The precious gift of American citizenship comes to the Jepp Quads because there were no hospital facilities anywhere in Canada able to handle 4 neonatal intensive care babies...the Jepp quads will be eligible to run for the presidency of the United States when they reach the age of 35, having been born in Benefis Hospital in Great Falls, Montana," wrote Thomas Lifson, editor of American Thinker (Aug.17, 2007). Lifson points out that the Jepps had to travel 325 miles from Calgary, a wealthy Canadian city of over a million people, to Great Falls, a U.S. city of under one hundred thousand, whose hospital facilities had no problem accommodating the Jepps' specific situation. Lifson wrote "As Don Surber points out, the United States functions as Canada's back-up medical system, enabling it to run with less investment in facilities. America's evil, heartless private medicare system saved the day."
Do not tell Michael Moore or his goose-stepping 'universal-at-all-costs' sycophants that Canadian patients (hostages of a government-run, single-payer 'health-scare' monopoly) are forced to flee to the States for needed service. This situation is not an obscure anomaly - it's happening in Alberta; it's happening in Ontario; it's hapenning right in Niagara, where patients are regularly shuffled off to Buffalo, N.Y., and beyond, for medical treatment which Canada's sicko, supposedly 'universal' system is, by its own nature, unable to provide. Don't tell Michael Moore that Canada's Jepps went, not to Cuba, but to the U.S. system he so despises. If Moore's U.S. system is so bad, why are Canadians running to it?
CTV News (AUG.17, 2007) reported "It cost $30,000 for each day Karen Jepp and her babies received care in the Montana hospital. In Calgary, it would have cost less than $11,000 per day." Hmm. But, the point is: no matter what the cost "would have" been in Canada, there was NO AVAILABLE SERVICE! Canada's much-trumpeted theory of "universality" failed to deliver the quads, so to speak, in Canada! And let's not confuse price with cost - in Canada, there was no care available to the Jepp family, in their time of need, AT ANY PRICE. (Please, read that again if you don't get it). The cost to the family was unneccessary emotional turmoil, uncertainty, and anxious inconvenience, and it cost the four girls the opportunity to have been born, near home, in their own country.
Canada's great myth of universality requires that we have an unspoken, symbiotic relationship with the American system, which acts as a relief-valve when our patriotic, but duplicitous, health-care rhetoric is suddenly overshadowed by health-care reality. And unfortunately it's quite popular for many, mostly so-called 'liberals' on both sides of the border to deride and resent the American system. That is, until we need it. We should be grateful that the U.S. is there for us.
Robert Bell, the $667,000 salaried (Globe and Mail, Mar.31, 2007) CEO of Toronto’s University Health Network, wrote (Globe and Mail, July 4, 2007) “Canadians do, indeed, have a better health system than our neighbours.” He cites figures such as “44 million Americans lack health insurance” (a figure which is disputable), and that Canadians pay 9% of GDP to insure 100% of our population, while the U.S. spends 14% of GDP to insure 85% of its people. However, this doesn’t quite mean that those uninsured Americans will be kicked out of American hospitals. And though all Canadians are supposedly “insured” still doesn’t hide the fact that in Ontario alone, out of a population of some 12 million, 10% (or 1.2 million Ontarians) don’t even have a doctor!! But Bell cites that “97% of Canadians had a primary doctor”, even though the Ontario Medical Association’s Dr. David Bach wrote that “Ontario is short more than 2300 doctors, affecting 1.2 million patients.” (St. Catharines Standard, Oct.11, 2006) To Bell, it is just “invoking anecdotes” if you mention that Canadians are forced to escape Canada’s sicko system to the States for treatment.
Dr. David Gratzer wrote in "Who’s the real sicko?":
“I used to believe in government-run health care. Then I was mugged by reality.” Michael Moore’s “grand tour of public health care systems misses the big story: While he prescribes socialism, market oriented reforms are percolating from Stockholm to Saskatoon…Under the weight of demographic shifts and strained by the limits of command-and-control economics, government run health systems have turned out to be less than utopian. The stories are the same: dirty hospitals, poor standards, and difficulty accessing modern drugs and tests. Admittedly, the recent market reforms [in Europe] are gradual and controversial. But facts are facts, the reforms are real, and they represent a major trend in health care. What does Mr. Moore’s documentary say about that? Nothing.” (National Post, July 6, 2007)
Charles R. Carter wrote: “The American approach may be sicko, but the Canadian approach is cheapo. It’s time to amend the Canada Health Act. Many would be willing to pay a fee for service, thus reducing the waiting time for those on medicare, such as myself.” (Globe and Mail, July 7, 2007)
Will Quebec's 2005 Chaoulli decision change perceptions in the rest of Canada?
The National Post editorialized on June 10, 2005: “Supreme Court rulings do not make for light beach reading. But we would urge Canadians to at least peruse paragraphs 61 through 69 of Justice Deschamp’s opinion – for it is here where she says what few politicians dare: that there is no evidence public and private health care systems cannot happily coexist in Canada, as they do in Europe. Government witness after government witness, the Justice writes, testified at trial about the parade of horrors that would result if the public system were faced with private competition. Her impression was that their arguments were vague and flimsy, supported far more by fear and stale dogma than by any actual evidence. As she concludes, “The (2002) Romanow report stated that the Canada Health Act has achieved an iconic status that makes it untouchable by politicians. The tone adopted by [the dissenting Justices] is indicative of this type of emotional reaction. It leads them to characterize the debate as pitting rich against poor when the case is really about determining whether a specific measure is justified.”
Isn’t it time to remove the CHA from its pedestal, and make it accountable to patient needs? You'd think so. "The Canadian Medical Association, in a new policy document released Monday, says provincial governments should hire private-sector firms to deliver publicly-funded health-care services to prevent delays for medically necessary treatment," wrote the St. Catharines Standard (July 31, 2007). By Aug.2, 2007, The Standard reported that federal Conservative Health Minister Tony Clement "has curtly rebuffed the Canadian Medical Association's call for greater privatization of medicare, saying the government will not allow doctors to work simultaneously in both the public and the private health systems." Clement said: "We still agree with and wish to abide by the Canada Health Act...This issue comes up periodically because of various reports by the great and the good, and the CMA pretty well on a regular basis raises this issue". He’ll have to change that tune when the Supreme Court, province by province, begins hearing constitutional challenges and making rulings on how great and how good the delivery of medicare has been in this country. It's disheartening to hear the status-quo still being defended as if it was systemically perfect, and not pathologically flawed. Clement must have a plan B, which doesn't include using the States as back-up for our Canadian healthcare monopoly's failings.
Anthonie den Boef wrote that the CHA “should be updated to provide a guarantee of access to services within a medically reasonable time. Public healthcare in Canada is a fraud unless our government is determined and compelled to provide the medically necessary services within a prescribed maximum waiting period. The onus would be on the federal government as well as the provincial governments to make this happen immediately. The government may indicate that it does not have the resources to provide this guarantee of service. The only solution is then to allow Canadians full access to private health insurance and private healthcare delivery. Dual private and public systems work well in many European countries. I just wish the government of Canada and the provinces had the courage to act and update our archaic Canada Health Act.” (National Post, Mar.13, 2007)
Dr. Jacques Chaoulli wrote about the Jun.9, 2005 decision, which has now become synonymous with his name:
“Last June, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, because waiting lists within the Quebec single-payer system caused patients undue suffering and in some cases, death, the system stands in violation of our constitutional rights to life, security and liberty of a person…In the Court’s words: “The prohibition on obtaining private health insurance…might be constitutional in circumstances where healthcare services are reasonable as to both quality and timeliness.” In other words, to keep the ban on private healthcare, a government should have to ensure that no individual’s rights are violated with undue suffering due to excessive waiting times or poor service. No provincial government in this country could deny that at least one plaintiff - and in reality, many more - has faced such suffering under their jurisdiction. Moreover, so far as the issue of low quality services goes, the constant advances in expensive medical technology ensure that no state monopoly could ever provide for all its citizens the highest level of quality in healthcare services. As a result, a given service delivered under a monopoly by the state is likely to qualify as a low-quality service next to other services available elsewhere. Those who still believe that a government can meet the standards set for it by the Court are still using the socialist utopia thinking that that inspired Quebec’s prohibition on private insurance in the 1960’s…In fact, all seven justices were unanimous in ruling that the waiting times constitute an infringement on Quebecers’ rights; the difference was that only the majority justices ruled that the government had failed to prove that the infringement was necessary in the name of the common good. The other three were prepared to accept continued suffering and death in return for maintaining a system that that fits their socio-political philosophy…The problem is that, however lofty their goals, the dissenting justices failed to recognize that the government monopoly is incapable of delivering good care for all. Hence many Canadians are subjected to inferior care. And ironically, their attempts at a socialist system lead to gross inequality, with only the very rich having access to the services they need…The acknowledgement of rights and freedoms has been a necessary step in reforming the Canadian healthcare system. Now it’s time for governments to stop trying to find ways around the Court’s judgment, and to move us toward a multi-payer system, which is the only way to solve the problems of waiting times, as reported by the OECD.” (National Post, June 2, 2006)
This is what Dr. Chaoulli said in an interview (National Review of Medicine, Sept.30, 2007) about Ontario's Lindsay McCreith and Shona Holmes' case now before the Supreme court:
“The Chaoulli effect. The McCreith-Holmes case has been touted as "the Ontario Chaoulli." NRM asked Dr. Jacques Chaoulli, the original Chaoulli, his opinion of the recent goings-on.
What's your opinion of "the Ontario Chaoulli?" Well, I think it's a very important court case... I think it has a very good chance to succeed.
Do you think the judges will extend the Chaoulli decision into Ontario? The day I received the judgement in 2005 I made a public declaration right away that in my view it was obvious that it would apply across Canada. Because if Quebecers have a right to protect life, security and liberty, then of course other Canadians have the same right. Otherwise, do Quebecers have the right to live and other Canadians should die on waiting lists?
You represented yourself in the Supreme Court and beat the Quebec government. Any legal advice for the Ontario litigants? In Quebec the objective of the statutes was valid, to have a universal public healthcare system. Bon. But the Court went on in the Chaoulli judgement analysis to ask was it necessary to establish a monopoly of public insurance in order to reach the objective of a universal system? The Court decided it was not. In Ontario there is a second objective of the statutes, to prevent people from buying a private healthcare service, which was not the situation in Quebec. In my view, the lawyer in the case in Ontario should challenge the validity of an objective being to deny the freedom of contracting of healthcare services.
Do you plan on filing a brief to the court in support of McCreith-Holmes? I would say the Chaoulli judgement speaks for itself."
Peter Foster wrote about the collectivist “lump of healthcare fallacy”: the notion that “if some can pay for better service, this will inevitably mean worse service for the “disadvantaged”. This is based on primitive but prevalent “carcass economics” which sees wealth, or any service, as a thing rather than as the result of a creative, on-going, ever-improving process, and can think of no solution to alleged inequity but forced redistribution and rationing.” (National Post, Feb.22, 2006)
Typical pro-medicare arguments are that the emergence of the private sector would lead to a reduction in popular support for the public system; that the public system’s quality of care would decline; and, that departing healthcare professionals would leave the public system bleeding. David Gratzer (Globe and Mail, Dec.6, 2005) wrote: “Take private insurance. Any suggestion of allowing a private option is greeted with doom and gloom. So-called experts suggest dire consequences: Private insurance will erode the public system because, having opted out, many Canadians will no longer care; human resources will bleed out of medicare, attracted by the lucrative private sector. But Canadians ought to dismiss such arguments - after all, in Chaoulli v. Quebec, the Supreme court did. The judges heard from pro-medicare witnesses such as Theodore Marmor. A Yale political scientist, Prof. Marmor is one of the most quoted health experts in this country. Could he provide any evidence to substantiate his doomsday predictions? Madame Justice Marie Deschamps, on behalf of the majority, wrote: “Marmor supported this argument but conceded that he had no way to verify it.…[He] confirmed that there is no direct evidence to support this view.…[He] testified that there is really no way to confirm it empirically. In his opinion, it is simply a matter of common sense.” I focus on Prof. Marmor because of his influence, but others made similar points before the Supreme Court. Judge Deschamps concluded: “For each threat mentioned, no study was produced or discussed in the Superior Court.” ” Sounds like faith-based politics! Gratzer wrote “No Western country - spare ours - bans a private option. And the international experience doesn’t support the doomsday predictions. In fact, the original experiments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan were never so restrictive. Sydney Green, a former MLA and NDP minister of health, observed: “It was never part of the original concept that doctors would be conscripted and that it would be illegal for a doctor and a patient to enter into a private arrangement.” Wasn’t it Shakespeare who wrote something like ‘we are not the first, who with best intent, incurred the worst’? Cue pithy analogy of ‘roads paved with good intentions’, and laws of unintended consequences.
Marmor called Gratzer’s report a “screed” and a “travesty of mis-deception, misattribution, and distortion.” (Globe and Mail, Dec.7, 2005) Marmor wrote he did provide to the Quebec trial court “empirical and theoretical reasons for concluding that “I did not believe it plausible that a private, parallel system of health insurance could be instituted in Canada without a number of undesirable side effects.” Is a patient’s freedom to choose their healthcare options an undesirable side effect? It’s unsettling when the cause becomes more important than the patient. When and why has it become fashionable for the left to subordinate the healthcare rights of the individual to the whims of the system?
“A measure as drastic as prohibiting private insurance contracts altogether appears to be neither essential nor determinative. Therefore, the choice of prohibiting private insurance contracts is not justified by the evidence,” wrote the National Post on Jun.10, 2005. Should Ontarians start buying healthcare in Quebec, and, could we deduct it from our provincial taxes?
Given Quebec’s Chaoulli decision, must Ontarians be subjected to inferior care, suffering, or death so that Ontario Liberals (still using similar unsubstantiated claims as were discredited in Quebec) may indulge their lofty socio-political goals? Liberal Jim Bradley kept on repeating these same fearmongering claims in St. Catharines right through his 2007 election campaign. As I wrote in the St. Catharines Standard, Sept.6, 2006: “For the public good, consumer choice in healthcare should no longer be banned, accursed, and derided. It should be reclaimed as every individual’s intrinsic right.”
On Michael Coren’s current affairs show (CTS, Apr.10, 2007) the topic under discussion was public vs. private healthcare. Guest MPP Tim Hudak said there should be “consumer choice” in healthcare. A St. Catharines Standard story (B.C. private clinic reopens, Staffed by doctors from other provinces, controversial facility not breaking any laws, Apr.10, 2007) quotes Dr. Mark Godley, owner of Vancouver’s private False Creek Urgent Care centre: “The Constitution trumps everything and this is about a person’s personal rights to be able to gain access to timely health care and this is about providing people with choice.” On Mark Hebscher/Donna Skelly’s CH11 talk show, Aug. 10, 2007, viewer ‘Alan’ commented that taking money for a service, like healthcare, that you aren’t going to deliver, is tantamount to fraud.
Patrick Monahan wrote in “The Canada Health Act’s sixth principle” that the health policy community expected the Supreme Court to affirm earlier decisions against Chaoulli made by the lower Quebec Superior Court and the Quebec Court of Appeal. After the decision, policy experts became concerned that it “seemed to undermine the status-quo by mandating legal limits on the extent to which care can be rationed and on the permissible length of wait times…For the first time, patients were not to be regarded as bystanders but as stakeholders who could demand accountability. Largely overlooked in the academic debate was whether anyone had an answer to the fundamental question that had moved the Court to intervene: whether it was legally and morally justified for the state, on one hand, to require individuals to access healthcare services only through a universal, single-payer system; and then, on the other hand, to deny them access to needed service when they were sick or dying. Could the sick be compelled to wait indefinitely, even if it resulted in deterioration of their health or death?” (This is a good question for Jim Bradley to answer when he thinks about Niagarans like Suzanne Aucoin, or Mena Coote, or Andrew Lanese, or the late Margaret Cowal, detailed in this essay) Monahan continues: “It bears explaining why it cannot be legitimate for a free society to prevent individuals from using their own resources to protect their health when the publicly funded system does not provide care in a timely manner. In these circumstances, the state is essentially forcing individuals to endure pain and even death in aid of the efficient operation of a social program. This offends the basic liberal principle that all persons should be treated as equals; no citizen may be treated as a mere instrument to improve the welfare of another. I believe that the case marks a watershed in the evolution of health policy. But far from heralding the destruction of Canada’s publicly funded healthcare, Chaoulli may provide a key to its reform and sustainability. At bottom, Chaoulli introduces a new “sixth principle” beyond the five already enshrined in the Canada Health Act: patient accountability…Two viable reform options present themselves: an improved, sustainable version of the single-payer, universal system that now exists, with performance benchmarks; or introduction of a privately funded option that would be available to patients who exceed maximum acceptable wait-time benchmarks within the publicly funded system. The choice between these options will ultimately be made by provincial governments and legislatures, not courts. For too long, debate over reform to the Canada Health Act has been regarded as off-limits. The fact that we will now be required to seriously debate the foundations of the public health care system on the basis of evidence and outcomes, rather than ideology and rhetoric, cannot help but improve the care provided to all Canadians.” (The National Post, Nov.30, 2006)
“As government expands, liberty contracts. Through legislation and regulation, the state diminishes the sphere of individual freedom and responsibility. The Charter has the potential to protect individual freedom from state intrusion and interference.” (Chris Schafer and John Carpay, National Post, Apr.11, 2007)
McGuinty’s Jun.9, 2005 response to the Chaoulli decision was to suddenly throw an extra $154M into his medicare monopoly’s uncompetitive gaping maw (which, let’s recall, was already supposedly covered by 2004’s Bill 8). Paul Martin’s out-of-touch, too-little-too-late feeble response was (!) “we’re not going to have a two-tier health system.” Conservative Peter MacKay reminded Canadians it was Martin, as finance minister, who cut health transfers to the provinces by $25 billion between 1994 and 1999. The NDP’s Howard Hampton (along with columnists such as the Toronto Star’s Ian Urquhart) immediately called for the use of the federal ‘notwithstanding’ clause to circumvent the Court’s decision, while John Tory said the clause should be used sparingly.
How have Ontarians fared recently under the Liberal healthcare monopoly of Bill 8, the ominous ‘Commitment to the Future of Medicare act’?Did Bradley read Merrilee Fullerton’s Apr.14, 2004 Ottawa Citizen column: “In Ontario, 1.4 million patients have no access to a family physician”?
Did Bradley read the Feb.10, 2006 Niagara Falls Review headline: “Niagara is short 78 family doctors”?
Did Bradley read the July 17, 2006 St. Catharines Standard headline: “100,000 people in Niagara don’t have a doctor”? (But will that mean 100,000 less votes for Bradley's Liberals?)
Did Bradley read the Standard’s Aug.11, 2006 report, “Lack of MDs could close ERs” that Ontario is short 2,000 doctors?
Did Bradley read the Standard’s Sept.6, 2006 report by John Vessoyan that “Niagara needs 96 family physicians this year to eliminate its doctor shortage”?
Did Bradley read the Standard’s Sept.16, 2006 report “No docs, no clinic” by Matthew Van Dongen that Niagara needs “more than 80 doctors”?
Did Bradley read the Standard’s Oct.7, 2006 report “Seeking a cure” by Matthew Van Dongen that St. Catharines is “short 27 family doctors, which translates into more than 30,000 patients without service”? (Will that translate into 30,000 less votes for Bradley?)
Did Bradley read Dr. David Bach’s letter in the Oct.11, 2006 Standardthat “Ontario is short more than 2300 doctors, affecting more than 1.2 million patients”?
“Lineups of ambulances at Niagara hospitals have become a common sight. A lack of hospital beds for incoming patients forces paramedics to wait on the scene until space is found.” (St. Catharines Standard, Feb.2, 2007) Healthcare lineups, in Jim Bradley’s own backyard, in 2007? Surely, Bradley’s Liberals will find a way to somehow blame Harris…wait - they already have! Several days earlier, on Jan.27, 2007, the St. Catharines Standard wrote: “The Liberals said Friday they have given Ontario hospitals an extra $2.2 billion since 2003, and made major improvements to the health-care system after eight years of cuts by the previous Conservative government”. But let’s recall what an indignant Bradley said in the St. Catharines Standard on Jan.31, 1998: “Emergency patients turned away from overcrowded Niagara hospitals can thank the Harris government’s healthcare policies.” So, who can we thank today, Jim, "$2.2 billion" later?? Oddly, no comment from Bradley was found in the Standard's Feb.2, 2007 story. There was no mention in the story, such as "we contacted Jim Bradley's office, but received no reply,"either. Shouldn't readers at least know that the press tried to contact Bradley, and that no reply was forthcoming? Some of these stories are written as if Bradley, the local MPP, has nothing to do with any of these healthcare problems! (Cue: blame Harris!)
Did Bradley read this letter from St. Catharines Dr. George Fitzpatrick? (St.Catharines Standard, Mar.7, 2005):
"I noticed your series of articles on health care and this government's treatment of Ontario doctors in the health system. As a delegate to the section of family practice of the Ontario Medical Association, I would like to share some of my frustrations with the members of the public.
- The Ontario government is making it harder for physicians and their patients.It refuses to negotiate a fair deal with doctors. Despite the fact that one million patients in Ontario are without family doctors, the government refuses to address the concerns raised by Ontario physicians. Picking fights with our doctors, and remunerating them less than those doctors in six other provinces is not the way to recruit physicians to Ontario. Why doesn't the province stop playing politics with patients and their health?
- One in three specialists will be older than 55 in the next five years.
- Waiting times for referrals, operations and diagnostic tests, such as MRIs and CAT scans can take up to six months in this community.
- Doctors who are working harder and harder cannot solve these problems. Only a reasonable government that co-operates with health professionals can.
- A government that tries to dictate "take-it-or-leave-it" deals will not solve the problem of wait times and shortages.
- We want to work constructively with the government, patients and other health professionals to solve these problems.
- Our health system is under-funded. In 1992, Ontario had the highest per-capita spending on health care in the country. Now we rank seventh. I ask St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley to intervene on behalf of families in the St. Catharines riding to tell Dalton McGuinty and George Smitherman to co-operate with the professionals who make our health system work."
Did Jim Bradley ever bother to respond to the above letter?
On Oct.29, 2004, the Toronto Sun’s Antonella Artuso reported that: “A year after the Ontario Liberal government was elected to reduce medical waiting times, radiologists say the wait times for MRI/CT scans is getting worse.” In December of 2006, the Liberals were chastised by the Ontario Auditor for fudging statistics on healthcare wait times. On Mar.17, 07 they announced they were setting up some kind of independent wait-times monitoring committee. For those three months, then, on what data were the Liberals basing their (baseless) wait-times claims on? Will this new group also track the specific costs incurred to achieve any lowering (or increase) of wait times? ie before an election, then, after an election?
On Dec.20, 2004, The Windsor Star wrote of Tim Mann, who had to resort to placing an ad offering $2500 to any family physician willing to take him. A doctor accepting such an offer would breach the law. Yet Liberals allow ‘officially designated under-serviced areas’ to pay doctors bonuses of up to $40K to subsidize their clinics. That is fair? Why should one municipality have the right to poach/pilfer/entice/lure/bribe doctors from another municipality by subsidizing them with taxpayer’s cash, when it is illegal for an individual citizen to pay a doctor? Why do hospitals resort to shilling lotteries to help pay their bills, when liberals claim 'medicare' covers all our healthcare needs? Why doesn't Smitherman also ban hospital fundraising, donations, lotteries, gifts, endowments and even volunteering? Shouldn't all these activities be made illegal; shouldn't his healthcare monopoly be fully funded by the public purse only? Shouldn't hospital volunteers who willingly give their time to help out be told that it's illegal to do so unless they accept a paycheque? Shouldn't we know the true cost of socialized medicine, over and above the 50% of Ontario's entire budget (according to McGuinty in the televised Sept.20, 2007 leaders' debate), plus the extra billions from the health-tax that are already being spent? Yet, profitable, sustainable healthcare models are being ridiculed? Unreal!
On Sept.20, 2005, the Globe and Mail quoted Sandi Johnson, mother of Ontario teen Tommy Garrett, whom OHIP sends to Calgary for photopheresis treatment: “I thought the health system was supposed to be there when we needed it. I never thought I would have to get on my knees and beg for treatment for my child. That’s not how medicare is supposed to work.”
On Sept.29, 2005 the Globe and Mail’s Christie Blatchford wrote of 62 year old Maria Bujak, who had to drive while sick to Philadelphia for photopheresis treatment.
On Jan.27, 2006, the Toronto Sun’s Sarah Green quoted cancer patient John Carlton (whom OHIP sent to Philadelphia while photopheresis equipment sat idle for years at Princess Margaret Hospital): “I would rather see the money spent in my own country and on research benefiting Canadians. I don’t think that’s narrow-minded patriotism”. On Jun.30, 2006, after a public outcry, the Liberals announced $5.15M in funding to buy two more machines and fund a two-year evaluation program at Princess Margaret Hospital. Should this absolve the Liberal healthcare monopoly from responsibility for the suffering caused to patients who had no choice but to leave Ontario for treatment? Could this niche treatment not have become a public-private partnership opportunity?
On Aug.5, 2006 the Chatham Daily News wrote of John Dankoski, who cannot find any Canadian surgeon for a specialized spinal procedure, and is fundraising $60,000 to get it done in the U.S. because OHIP refused to pay.
On Mar.16, 2005 The National Post’s article “Toronto hospitals’ costly scanners sit idle” reported multi-million dollar PET-CT scanners are used only one day a week due to a lack of funding – while OHIP sends patients to the States. Can Smitherman answer why?
In Peter Downs’ May 11, 2006 St. Catharines Standard story, "Cancer patients allowed to pay for costly drugs", Dr. Bill Evans says that allowing patients to buy cancer drugs not covered under OHIP has “sort of been sneaked in as a practice that doesn't have a policy framework yet...I think that all of us would prefer to have an explicit public policy on how to deal with this difficult issue”. What - no Liberal policy framework? “Sneaked in” under provincial Liberal noses? [Just like various degrees of privatization were ‘sneaked in’ while federal Liberals conveniently looked the other way during the Chretien/Martin dynasty? Just like Chretien’s swan song, Kyoto, was foisted upon Canadians while emissions actually rose? “Politics is about perception,” wrote former Liberal MP Sheila Copps. (Toronto Sun, Feb.18, 2007) How succinct, how unabashedly Liberal! Plausible deniability seems to be a Liberal stock-in-trade; be perceived as doing one thing, while actually doing something else entirely…But I digress…] Downs reported (May 11, 2006): "Cancer Care Ontario - the agency that coordinates the provinces' cancer services - is developing a proposal that would enable patients to pay for drugs that have been approved for use by Health Canada, but are not covered by OHIP. Despite criticism that the change could create a two-tier system, Health Minister George Smitherman said Monday he believes the idea is worthy of consideration". How is this different than what federal Liberal Pettigrew was chewed out for in 2004? How many more patients have to suffer while Smitherman's Liberal health monopoly makes up its mind? And speaking of cancer drugs that are approved by Health Canada and available elsewhere in Canada, but are not approved for funding in Liberal Ontario: why has Biolyse Pharma's cancer drug Paclitaxel (which is manufactured in St. Catharines, Jim Bradley's own backyard), not allowed by Bradley's Liberals to be sold in Ontario? No wonder there were no Jim Bradley election signs on that factory!
Where is the feigned Liberal moral outrage, the “bombast”, the “rich are buying their way to the front of the line” rhetoric from St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley? Where is the usual knee-jerk condemnation and fear-mongering about “blows to” and “erosion of” medicare? This spectre of privatization unfolded in Bradley’s backyard, in 2006! Where is the leftist screeching about “dismantling medicare”, about Tommy Douglas “spinning in his grave”, about “sacred Canadian values”, about “two-tier”, about “slippery slopes”, about “cheque-book medicine”, about “Americanization”, about “hidden agendas”, about “queue-jumping”, about “U.S.-style”, that Bradley’s bunch spewed over the years?
Imagine that - like Americans, Bradley’s Liberals are considering having patients pay for their drugs, but how can patients afford drugs while being denied by the Liberal government the opportunity to buy health insurance? Do patients have a choice in Liberal Ontario - are they being allowed or are they being forced into paying for their treatment, within this closed-shop system? Furthermore, why should only “catastrophic” drugs be bought based on ability to pay, but not any other drug or procedure? Why is the ‘equality-of-access’ rhetoric specifically not applicable/disregarded here? Is this not Liberal flip-flopping, two-tier, hypocrisy? One can only imagine Bradley’s vitriolic posturing had he been in opposition as this unfolded. The double standard now evidenced by Bradley's silence and seemingly tacit approval is astounding.
Downs reports Dr. Carol Sawka saying that this proposal would not create a two-tier system. (Why can’t we just admit that if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then…?) Sawka also said: “It’s a question of fairness and perspective.” (Yes - fair and perspective and two tier are compatible.) Sawka then gets to the crux of it all, asking: “Is it fair that a person who could actually afford to pay for that drug can’t get it?”
Has a better question than this been yet asked? Surely Bradley will have a clever response in his rhetorical red book as to why this is happening on his watch. Will he interfere with patients who, by choice or necessity, pay for their own drugs? Similarly, is it then fair that a person, who could afford to pay for a surgery, or an MRI, or other medical service, cannot get it?
Yet a year earlier, a Toronto Star (July 15, 2005) editorial, "Tough choices in Healthcare", noted Smitherman’s hypocritical healthcare policies: “Smitherman revealed that Queen’s Park would not block a private clinic slated to open next month that will provide and administer costly new cancer drugs, not available under OHIP, to patients who have thick enough wallets to pay for them…By Smitherman’s own admission, this clearly is two tier…but even if the government allowed (private clinics) to operate as a second tier for those with the resources, the public would at least know that it would be selling hope in the form of small probabilities, and possibly a bit of extra time, as opposed to a meaningful standard of superior care.” Leave it to some smug Star lefty to define and deride ‘hope’ for patients, and judge what ‘meaningful’ and ‘superior’ care means to them. The tough choice for the Star and Smitherman is grudgingly admitting that when medical reality supersedes leftist rhetoric, mythical medicare cannot help everyone as promised. Consumers should have a choice in their healthcare provider and payer options. We need way less interference from George Smitherman. (or the Toronto Star)
By May 3, 2007, the St. Catharines Standard reported Smitherman saying that it would be impossible to cover every new medication that’s developed, and that no public or private health insurance plan in the country could afford to pay for all the latest new cancer drugs. (It must be hard for the Liberals to keep the real world from interfering with their health monopoly) Echoing the chilling “small probabilities” theme mentioned above in the Star (Jul.15, 2005), Smitherman said: “In a world where there will be a new product available every day – which sometimes is offering very, very modest enhancements to life, sometimes measured in days – it’s going to be very, very challenging for any insurance system, public or otherwise, to be in a position to buy every product that is out there.” What…“public or otherwise”?? What “otherwise” is available on the market in Ontario, under Smitherman’s authoritarian, consumer-choice-denying, killer health-monopoly? Has Smitherman allowed any competition to OHIP’s monopoly? How long do patients have to wait while his Liberal smoke-and-mirrors health system decides what it’s doing? They essentially banned patients from buying their own health insurance, while concurrently denying patients treatments under their rising-premium/lower-coverage so-called “universal” system. Looks like Tommy Douglas’s universal-healthcare-Ponzi-scheme is revealing itself for the long-con it’s always been. Are we “covered”, or are we not? Let’s remember that as far back as Aug.11, 2005, the Niagara Falls Review reported “Smitherman has also been publicly signaling that his government is prepared to allow Ontarians to “augment” their care, suggesting that should not be threatening and that the province can’t “do it all” ”. (“Augment”? Is that Liberal-speak for “two-tier”, you know, the two-tier that an indignant Bradley blamed others for? Do you want health service in the States, where you’re alive but in debt, or in Ontario, where you’re - literally - taxed to death then die while waiting for Liberal-denied treatment?) Smitherman downplays and rationalizes the value of some treatment choices as making “very, very modest enhancements to life”. But, perhaps patients want to make those choices themselves and pay for them, because they can’t afford to wait. Who is Smitherman to deny them, in any case; whether it is his so-called “universal” system which pays (or, more likely, simply denies), or a patients’ own resource that pays?? Roman Gawur (St. Catharines Standard, May 3, 2007) said, “I must say I was stunned at the prospect of a $32,000 personal expenditure for an approved drug to be administered in a hospital…I guess this health card was not really all that good after all. What I needed was my Visa card.” Joaquim Teotonio, who paid more than $40,000 in the past year for the drug Avastin, said “I cannot accept the fact that this government is denying me a right of accessibility to which I and every citizen is entitled.” Wendy Mundell asked why the government felt her life was not worth the $18,000 she was billed for Avastin. “It became clear to me that early on the drugs I needed to fight my cancer were not being provided by a universal healthcare system that I, as a Canadian, have been taught to be so proud of.” Maybe our teachers and politicians were perpetuating a fraud. Maybe Jim Bradley can find a way to blame someone other than his own Liberals for this mess occurring on his watch, here in Ontario, in 2007. Can he ever answer a question without resorting to his tired old straw-man routine of ‘blame-Harris’?
On Mar.31, 2006, Peter Downs wrote in the St. Catharines Standard of Suzanne Aucoin, who was grateful, puzzled and confused that OHIP will pay $25,000 a month for her to receive the cancer drug Erbitux at a Buffalo clinic when she’s currently paying approximately a quarter of that amount to get it in Hamilton. Aucoin stated: “I always think it would be so ironic that I’ll get approved (for funding) and then I won’t need the drug anymore.” Can Bradley explain why so many Ontario patients are sent to Buffalo?
After reading Peter Downs’ July 4, 2006 St. Catharines Standard story "Furious with OHIP", did Bradley sit back and watch as OHIP flip-flopped and denied Aucoin reimbursement for her Erbitux treatment costs (about $24,000 US) because they were delivered in a U.S. clinic, not a hospital? What choice did Bradley’s Liberal healthcare monopoly give her? An “apparent bureaucratic misunderstanding by decision makers at OHIP” has caused her eight months of unnecessary grief. Downs reported she is planning to appeal OHIP’s refusal, and might have to take legal action against the government. “The way that I’m going to get my justice, whether I get my money or not, is through exposing them,” Aucoin says. “I want to let the public know things aren’t right and things have to change.”
Yet, on July 18, 2005 The Globe and Mail’s Carolyn Abraham wrote of Mario Codispoti, who received 8 Erbitux treatments in Buffalo which OHIP did pay for. “We don’t live in a third world country. This is a G8 country. And this is a drug that has been proven to help with the disease” said Antonia Codispoti. “What’s wrong with Canada? The bureaucracy baffles the mind.”
In the National Post on Sept.18, 2006, a day before her appeal hearing at HSARB, Suzanne Aucoin said: “I am completely disgusted with our healthcare system. I am very discouraged and frustrated by the lack of professionalism, the lack of consistency, and the lack of care for me as an individual patient.”
On Nov.16, 2006, HSARB rejected Aucoin’s appeal, prompting her to file a formal complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman’s office against the Health Ministry and OHIP. As the St. Catharines Standard reported (Nov.24, 2006), HSARB “ruled it didn’t have jurisdiction to cover Aucoin’s tab at the West Seneca clinic because it doesn’t meet its definition of a “licensed health facility” - yet this reason was not initially mentioned in the rejection letter sent to Aucoin’s oncologist, Dr. Pierre Major, in Oct. 2005. The initial reason for the rejection given by a health ministry official was that Aucoin’s application for out-of-country coverage couldn’t be approved because the drug was already available in Canada, and was considered experimental. Aucoin’s lawyer, the Standard reported, pointed out that the health official was wrong - while Erbitux was approved for use by Health Canada in Sept. 2005, it has not been made commercially available in Canada. Aucoin reportedly spent $31,065 in West Seneca during Oct.-Dec. 2005. Welcome to the obstructive, nightmarish, health-scare scenario of appeals and denials which Jim Bradley and his Liberals have foisted upon ill Ontarians, where the survival of a morally bankrupt ideology takes precedence over the supposed well being and survival of its patients.
Rob Ferguson wrote in the Toronto Star (Nov.17, 2006) that Aucoin’s lawyer, Brian Cohen “obtained statistics under the Freedom of Information Act, showing that OHIP approved 146 applications for out of country Erbitux treatments for Ontario residents with colon cancer from Jan. 2005 to the end of September this year at a cost of$10 million. If OHIP had spent that money more wisely in the way Suzanne did…it could have treated another 100 or so patients with colon cancer,” Cohen argues.” Ferguson continued: “Health Minister George Smitherman said it was difficult for him to comment on the Board’s decision because he is not familiar with the “twists and turns” of the case.” Unbelievable! He’s the minister in charge of the healthcare fiasco which is forcing patients like Aucoin into those “twists and turns”! He’s coyly “not familiar” with his own duplicitous labyrinth of bureaucracy, to which the ill of this province are forced to grovel for their rationed treatment? Shameful. If Smitherman is unaware of Aucoin’s ordeal, then fellow Cabinet minister Bradley must not have been doing a good job keeping his colleague on top of issues from his riding.
On July 14 and 15, 2006 the Globe and Mail’s Lisa Priest wrote of cancer patient Dr. Saunders, who in Dec. 2005 won his case at HSARB against OHIP, which had initially refused to fund his Avastan treatment. OHIP was ordered to pay for his treatment in Buffalo. So what did the Liberal government then do, when it disagreed with HSARB’s decision? It appealed Saunders’ appeal. Toronto lawyer Brian Cohen called the government’s position on Saunders’ case “institutionalized two-tier medicine”. (Did Bradley, whose government is now appealing against his own citizens, read that?) Saunders said: “The principle of universality [of healthcare] is not being maintained. They are not being open about the rationing issue…It was clear their agenda was not into providing the best healthcare, but trying to keep costs contained and avoid making this tough ethical decision as to who and what should be funded in the province of Ontario.” Let’s compare what Dr. Saunders said about Bradley’s Liberals to what Bradley said in 2001 about the Harris government’s sincerity in trying to bring some fiscal sanity and improvements to Ontario’s healthcare system: “they’re looking for a way to impose a two-tier healthcare with a good deal of privatization in it to save money.” (St. Catharines Standard, Apr.21, 2001). After all the Liberal taxes and Liberal spending and Liberal broken promises, whose hypocritical hidden agenda has been revealed? Dr. Ralph Wong commented on the Saunders case: “I suspect it will be settled through litigation…eventually enough patients will get angry enough to sue the government and the courts will have to decide.” This is in Bradley’s Ontario? Unbelievable. If you get sick in Liberal Ontario, get a lawyer, passport, and plane ticket.
Of course, appeals cost patients time and money and agony. Is this the Liberal’s dirty little end game – on one hand, trumpeting the Triumph of Universal Healthcare, while with the other hand steering victimized, marginalized patients into a maze of delays, denials, appeals, counter-appeals and lawsuits in the hope that they’ll eventually just give up, or worse, die before any substantive progress is made? Bradley’s Liberals, under the pretence of protecting our supposed entitlement to healthcare, are using tax money to sue their own citizens, in order to appeal or deny the ‘universal healthcare’ which they claim to uphold. Please deliver us from this convoluted socialist glory.
Let’s look at what Bradley’s Liberals have done on the issue of treatments for autistic children. Ontario’s privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian said that the Liberal government, (which has been refusing to divulge the costs it has incurred fighting the children’s parents in court) should, by Mar.8, 2007, release the documents to Shelley Martel, the NDP MPP who had requested them under FOI (freedom of information) rules back on May, 2004. The government, which is paying for both its own and the parents’ lawyers, claimed it couldn’t give out this information as it would reveal their court strategy. So, to ensure the issue remains covered up and pushed back until well after the upcoming Oct. 07 election, they launched their own court case on Mar.7, 2007, with the Attorney General vs. Information and Privacy commissioner Cavoukian and MPP Martel! John Tory said “McGuinty should stop stonewalling” Martel, and taxpayer’s money “should be spent on reducing the wait list for treatment for children with autism, not on lawyers defending Dalton McGuinty’s broken promise. You have to wonder what Mr. McGuinty is trying to hide.” Martel called the Liberal move “litigation chill” and “obscene”. Willy Noiles wrote in What are the Liberals hiding?: “For a premier who only a couple of weeks ago was lamenting the number of violations under the FOI Act to now use a flimsy excuse like solicitor-client privilege to run roughshod over that same act seems typical of this government’s ‘say one thing, do another’ philosophy. But battling the same parents in court that you promised to help and then trying to hide the costs until after the election is not only a hallmark of insensitivity, it’s the utmost in hypocrisy.” (Pulse Niagara, Mar.22, 2007) Liberal hypocrites?!
Lisa Priest wrote of Adolfo Flora who “had to choose between dying in Canada or paying for surgery in Britain.” He is appealing, in Ontario Divisional Court, HSARB’s May 2002 refusal to reimburse him for his $477,000 surgery in England. He is invoking the Charter’s ‘life, liberty, and security of the person’ section (as did Chaoulli), and is claiming that HSARB confused what is medically necessary – a liver transplant – with what is medically available, because of an organ shortage. (Globe and Mail, Oct.21, 2005)
The Orangeville Citizen (Feb.8, 2007) reported that Flora: “made a complete recovery and today is alive and well thanks to the pioneering work of the doctors at London’s Cromwell hospital…OHIP’s refusal to pay even a portion of the cost was upheld in a majority ruling of HSARB, and three weeks ago that decision was upheld by Ontario’s Divisional Court, which rejected his lawyer’s contention that the current OHIP policy amounts to denial of his constitutional right to “life, liberty and security of the person”, as guaranteed by section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms…(Flora’s) lawyers have asked the Ontario Court of Appeal to review the Divisional Court’s ruling, which to us was at odds with the spirit, if not the letter, of the landmark 2005 Chaoulli decision of the Supreme Court of Canada which struck down a Quebec law prohibiting Quebecers from taking out insurance allowing them to get private-sector treatment that would be available under Quebec’s public health care plan but not on a timely basis. Presumably, the Chaoulli ruling makes it possible for a Quebecer today to get insurance against precisely against the sort of challenge Mr. Flora faced. Mr. Flora’s continuing predicament stands in sharp contrast to the situation of another teacher and cancer patient, Suzanne Aucoin…As we see it, in situations such as Mr. Flora’s, OHIP should surely be on the hook for at least what his treatment would have cost, had it been provided in Ontario.” As Claire Hoy wrote in the Orangeville Citizen (Feb.8, 2007): “Some day we’ll stop pretending - and stop claiming we’ve got the world’s best health care system - and get on with building one that works.”
On July 4, 2006, Peter Downs of the St .Catharines Standard, in an article about Suzanne Aucoin’s situation, quoted Health Ministry spokesman John Letherby: “When you have someone who goes ahead and gets treatment of their own volition prior to out-of-country approval…then any kind of costs incurred prior to that are not reimbursable.” If this is true, then how are the following several reported HSARB claims different from Aucoin’s? :
- Lisa Priest wrote in the Globe and Mail, Jan.28, 2006, of Warren Sutherland who went to the Netherlands for bladder treatment, which OHIP refused to pay, saying his treatment was not “generally acceptable by the medical community”. He appealed to HSARB, arguing that his treatment “was not experimental.” “Ultimately” Priest wrote, “the board agreed with him, saying that the treatment is not experimental, that it is generally accepted as appropriate for a person in the same medical circumstances, and that an identical or equivalent treatment is not available in Ontario.”
- Priest wrote on Jan.28, 2006 of Greg Ruetz, who “felt he had no choice but to travel to the U.S. for life-saving medical treatment.” OHIP would pay for his U.S. CAT scan, but not his surgery. In Apr. 2004, he paid $48K to have his kidney removed. It wasn’t until Mar.17, 2005 that HSARB ruled that OHIP should reimburse him. “It’s hard not to be impressed with the facilities,” he said of the Cleveland Clinic. He said he wants patients to know there are alternatives.
- Priest wrote on Oct 21, 2005 of Maria Wilkinson, who in Dec. 2002 was told she would have to wait 6-8 weeks for ovarian cancer surgery, yet OHIP refused to pay for out of country surgery. In Jan. 2003 she went to the U.S. for her surgery, then applied to HSARB, which in 2005 finally reimbursed her for $94K. Wilkinson said: “It isn’t until something happens to us that we realize what a mess the healthcare system is in. Unfortunately, people don’t realize it until they find themselves in this situation.”
- Shelley Wasserman wrote of a family member, who after being misdiagnosed in Toronto, went to the Mayo Clinic in Florida. “If the PET scan had been readily available, the doctor would have used it, and we could have avoided this whole horrible ordeal. In the end, OHIP will most likely be paying for the Mayo Clinic bill, which is substantially larger than the cost of the PET scan, had it been used here in Toronto.” (Toronto Star, June 20, 2005)
- Grace Macaluso reported: HSARB “ordered the Ontario government to reimburse a patient for the surgery she paid for in Florida after it found that the 18-24 month wait she faced in Toronto would have caused “medically significant irreversible tissue damage.” The decision follows a 2004 ruling in which the province was ordered to reimburse a London, Ont. man who went to Port Huron, Michigan, for a hip replacement.” (Oct.4, 2005, Windsor Star)
Patients are already self-funding or financing their surgeries because they can’t get timely treatment in Ontario. What consistency is there between the above-mentioned recent HSARB decisions and the claims made by Health Ministry spokesman Letherby in the July 4, 2006 Standard as it relates to Aucoin? How long must a patient grovel and plead before HSARB blesses or condemns them with its decision? Will HSARB, or the Minister of Health, be held liable for the consequential suffering or death of patients trapped in Ontario’s health monopoly monster? Much was made of the OLG fraud scandal of Mar. 2007, where Andre Marin criticized that the policing of OLG retailers in-house by the OLG was a conflict. It would be interesting if the Ombudsman could look at the same situation in Ontario’s healthcare, where OHIP, the government’s only payer, solely funded by the Ministry of Health, is also the nominal provider, overseeing the billings of its healthcare ‘retailers’ – is that not a prescription for fraud and abuse, by patients, or providers, or politicians?
On Jan.31, 2007, the St. Catharines Standard reported Ontario reimbursed Aucoin about $69,000 plus another $19,000 for legal costs. (Smitherman didn’t have the courtesy to personally meet Aucoin for the announcement. At least Bradley reportedly apologized) Ontario’s ombudsman Andre Marin said: “They put her through the ringer for no good reason. What attracted my attention was the bad treatment that was given to the complainant – the kind of misery she was put through…There’s a whole cloak-and-dagger (approach) by the Ministry of Health. It’s as if they hand a dying cancer patient a Rubik’s Cube and they’ve got to figure it out themselves. It’s a real cruel game.” (Liberal healthcare is a game??) Marin said: “Ministry officials displayed a “slavish adherence to rules at the expense of common sense.”
Common sense?! Jim Bradley’s Liberals didn’t believe in that revolution – remember how McGuinty proudly stood against the dreaded “Americanization of our hospitals”? Yeah, Liberals stood around all right, clucking derisively, offering Aucoin NO OPTION, NO CHOICE, while she sought, bought, - and got - the treatments she needed, at the very hospitals in the very system the Liberals sneered at. The system run by Smitherman, who acknowledged in Aug. 2005 his Liberals can’t “do it all”, did nothing but obstruct Aucoin, who was forced to ‘do it all’ herself. How extreme of an ideology is that? Yet not two months after reimbursing her, Smitherman claimed the Ontario government “is not based on “extremist ideology” but instead on sound business principles”. (National Post, Mar.21, 2007; see also Suffering for Smitherman, (National Post, Mar.19, 2007), earlier in this essay)
Suzanne Aucoin said: “If I lived by what they could provide me, I wouldn’t be living, I’d be dead. It is only because I go to other places, that I go to the U.S. and look outside of what’s available to me here, that I’m able to stay alive.” (Toronto Sun, Mar.16, 2007)
Unbelievably, by July 11, 2007, Niagara This Week reported: “Aucoin set to take on OHIP for a second time”. Her doctors decided her best treatment choice was a selective internal radiation therapy called SIR-Spheres (at an estimated cost of US $80-100K) in a Raleigh, North Carolina hospital. In a June 25, 2007 letter, OHIP, once again, refused to pay, this time citing a difference of opinion that SIR is approved by Ontario for neuroendocrine, but not colorectal, cancer. However, the treatment can also apparently be used for pain management, which Aucoin says OHIP should consider, as her tumour is pressing up against her diaphragm. “Doesn’t breathing fall into that category as well?” she asked. No mention was made in the article about Jim Bradley’s response to this latest example of his wonderful health-scare system. Strangely, Jim Bradley is silent while patients in his St. Catharines riding suffer.
Aucoin passed away in St. Catharines Nov.11, 2007. Yet Jim Bradley spoke at Aucoin's memorial service! (St. Catharines Standard, Nov.17, 2007): "Bradley said Suzanne was an inspiration because she fought for better healthcare for others, as well as herself..."She spotted deficiencies in the health-care system and brought them to everyone's attention.""
Bradley just found out through Aucoin that his healthcare monopoly had deficiencies? And, golly, Jim himself, after 30 years of pushing for the government-run health monopoly which victimized Aucoin, had the audacity to speak at her memorial service - as if good ol' Jim Bradley had nothing to do with any of Aucoin's difficulties! Unbelievable. Bradley syndrome at work.
The St. Catharines Standard's Aug.4, 2007 editorial, "Another health injustice in Niagara", said: "You'd think that the government would have learned it's lesson" after Ombudsman Marin's scathing report regarding how it treated Aucoin. "And now the government is doing it again to 10-year old Andrew Lanese", who has Hunter Syndrome. "There is an enzyme replacement therapy, approved by Health Canada, known as Elaprase. It's not a cure, but it is the only treatment available for the rare genetic disorder. But it costs $500,000 and the Ministry of Health has refused to pay for Andrew to receive the treatment. Not once, but twice." Patients being denied treatment - twice - by Jim Bradley's Liberals? Unbelievable. The Standard wonders "Why the government won't even try the therapy to see if it will help Andrew a little bit." (But we have seen Smitherman's answer - three months earlier, in the Standard on May 3, 2007, - remember his "very modest enhancements to life" response regarding the benefits of some treatments? Ontario patients are prisoners to a single-payer, one-size fits-all government-run health insurance monopoly, where Smitherman can essentially do as he pleases.) Although the Standard's Aug.4, 2007 editorial appeared just two months prior to the pre-set Oct.10 election, not once was the word "Liberal" used to describe the government which was perpetrating this injustice against its citizens. Not one mention was made of, nor were any comments obtained from, our local Liberal MPP - good old Jim Bradley - who for years derided the Conservatives with accusations of fictitious 'health-care cuts'. If a patient so much as sneezed during Harris' government, a finger-pointing Bradley would flap his gums with smug outrage. But just look at what Bradley's Liberals have shamefully done. Again, Bradley remains strangely silent while patients suffer and die in the medicare monopoly he so cherishes. The Standard asked why should Andrew's family have to live with the knowledge that there is help out there that they can't access. But shouldn’t we also ask why the Liberals are denying Ontarians the right to buy health insurance? Why are we beholden to the whims of a politicized health monopoly? Why not send a reporter to Jim Bradley's office to wait and see if Bradley will come up with a politically-palatable non-answer before election day to pacify the local electorate? The Standard wrote that "it should not have come to this". (But, what did you expect from Liberals?? Shouldn't the editorial have pointedly demanded that Bradley, as the local Liberal MPP, explain why it did "come to this"? Question the Liberals!! Liberals are dismissing occurrences such as this as anecdotal, but this is not the first time. Perhaps we shouldn't vote for them again!!) The Standard raised the flag of patriotism: "As Canadians, we are supposed to to pride ourselves on medicare and the principle of universal access to health-care services." That's what Bradley and his Liberals want us to believe, although time and again, the political promise of theoretical "universal access" - whatever that legally means, if anything - has proven to be a mirage of rhetoric in practice. The Standard's editorial closes by saying "It's not right that needed treatments are denied". Let's be clear that it is the McGuinty Liberal government of Ontario which is denying patients medical treatment and medical choices. Can there sadly be any clearer example of Liberal healthcare duplicity, right in Niagara?
Still not convinced of the sicko Ontario healthcare system, the kind revered by the liberal-left and the likes of Michael Moore? The Toronto Sun (Aug.1, 2007) wrote of the late, 9-year old Tamya Peralto, who had received treatment in Philadelphia for neuroblastoma in 2004. "She needed special treatment in the U.S., but was denied coverage by OHIP because the treatment was deemed experimental. So the community rallied around Tamya's family, raising thousands of dollars for her treatment." What choice did the Liberals give this girl?
We should not forget this smarmy Liberal moment (CityNews.ca, Sept. 26, 20o7): "As he continues to pound the campaign trail, Premier Dalton McGuinty came face to face with perhaps one of his biggest critics Wednesday after a cancer patient at an Ottawa hospital simply refused to shake his hand. Mike Brady, who has stage four colon cancer, told the party leader, "You're not helping me." McGuinty replied, "That's not true," before continuing with his tour. The angry patient said McGuinty shouldn't be visiting those in hospital with similar ailments when the Ontario government doesn't provide funding for some types of cancer that other provinces and the U.S. already do. McGuinty's response? It reminded him of how personal health care is to patients and their families. The doctor escorting the Grit boss through the facility quickly tried to put a spin on the incident, telling McGuinty cancer patients in hospital often experience feelings of despair. But Brady insisted he wasn't sad - just mad. "The study I was on was paid for by the drug company," he related afterwards. "If I had to rely on drugs available in Ontario I would be dead today." "
Brady’s last quote is worth noting, because it echoes exactly the same theme Suzanne Aucoin expressed after she was denied funding by Ontario's healthcare monopoly (twice), and was forced by McGuinty's Liberals to the States for her treatment. Aucoin said: “If I lived by what they could provide me, I wouldn’t be living, I’d be dead. It is only because I go to other places, that I go to the U.S. and look outside of what’s available to me here, that I’m able to stay alive.” (Toronto Sun, Mar.16, 2007)
McGuinty happened to pass Brady, a patient standing in the hospital lobby, as McGuinty and his entourage of cameras campaigned in the hospital. As McGuinty went by, he tried to reach out his hand, Brady did not offer his, and that's when the curt exchange took place, with Brady saying "I've got cancer and you're not helping any." (St.Catharines Standard, Sept.27,2007) McGuinty really didn't even stop walking. What occurred in this brief, yet revealing, episode is politically significant. A campaigning McGuinty meets a patient, face-to-face, who’s suffering in the Liberal healthcare system, and then has the audacity to dismiss what the patient just said, scurrying away while twice muttering: "That's not true". These Liberals are blind to the reality of the sicko healthcare mess which they, through their health minister George Smitherman, have propagated. When Our Great Heralded Liberal Leader McGuinty saw and met the reality of his failing health-policies face-to-face, he responded with rhetoric and simply walked away, pretending this was just an anomaly. Shameful. The Standard reported this incident “was an unexpected glitch for the premier”. You think?! The “glitch” is that reality trumped Liberal ideology. (And shame on that doctor for trying to spin it otherwise). This incident demonstrates more than just embarrassing Liberal hypocrisy; it shows the outright negligence of Ontario’s Premier - who runs our restrictive, single-payer, so-called ‘universal-healthcare’ monopoly - to portend that the suffering patient he just met, a hostage trapped in McGuinty’s no-choice monopoly, was somehow lying. And what exactly did Brady say which was "not true"? And how would Dalton even know, since he just walked by and didn't bother stopping to talk to Mr. Brady? McGuinty’s response, "not true", was rich indeed, coming from a Liberal premier whose entire 2003 election platform pretty much ended up being “not true”.
The video of this encounter was shown on almost all Ontario newscasts that night, Sept.26, 2007. (Once again, please, don't tell Michael Moore about this sicko example of universal government-run healthcare in Canada. Moore may not want to use it in his next propaganda film extolling the glories of Canadian single-payer medicare. However, seeing that McGuinty ended up winning the Oct.10, 2007 election, he will now be emboldened to walk away from many more patients.)
Lisa Priest (Globe and Mail, July 14, 2006) wrote of Jennifer Sztramko, a Simcoe Ont. cancer patient for whom HSARB ordered that Avastan treatment be provided in Buffalo. So what did OHIP do, in Liberal Ontario – it asked the board to halt the treatment order until a review of her case is heard. Ms. Sztramko said: “If you can’t afford the drug basically it’s unavailable to you…our governments at both levels are letting us down.” What Liberal choice was given to her?
Priest wrote on Feb.25, 2006 of Glen Wood, who paid $40K in Buffalo for a kidney transplant, after being refused coverage by OHIP in Jan. 2003. “Mr. Wood discovered the best kept secret in the transplant community: Canadians can obtain organs in the United States quicker than they can here, where queues can last many years and hundreds die waiting.”
Priest wrote on Mar.16, 2006 of cancer patient Catherine Pytel, who obtained a sample of Zevalin, but couldn’t find any Ontario hospital willing to administer it. “She is dying without this drug. If she doesn’t get this drug shortly, she is going to die from this disease” said Dr. Stephen Reingold. “It’s getting to the point where I can’t take it anymore. It’s beyond my comprehension” Pytel said. “They have these laws where you can’t commit suicide and then they turn around and do this to me. They might as well be handing me a gun.”
Mireille Silcoff wrote in "Waiting lists put my life on hold", (National Post, Jun.11, 2005):
"Eighteen months ago, something odd happened. I was walking up Avenue Road in Toronto and no longer felt like I could keep my head up. I sat down on a park bench. Maybe I had the flu. But I didn't really feel fluish. I just felt dizzy, and like my head was unsupported, as if my upper spine had weakened or something. With every step I took, it felt like my brain was being crushed. Lightly crushed. But crushed still.I saw my GP, one of the busiest in Toronto. He heard "dizziness" and immediately diagnosed me as suffering from anxiety. Dizziness is one of the most common complaints doctors hear from patients, and often stress is the cause. And I am an anxious sort. I'm a journalist -- it goes with the territory. For months I plodded on, feeling like I was on a boat when I was not, feeling an indescribable heaviness while on this non-existent vessel. Sometimes I would vomit. I spent days lying in my Toronto apartment -- listening to the cars outside, concentrating on the ceiling to stop the waves -- when I was supposed to be working.I saw the doctor again. "Stress can do the most amazing things," he told me.His waiting room was packed and he was impatient, and all I could plead was that my condition felt too weird to be the product of just stress. He dashed off a referral to an ear, nose and throat doctor. "Maybe you have an inner ear infection," he quickly said. "But I doubt it." On his way out, he told me about the fabulous new service his office was offering. In examining me, he had noticed something. "You have a couple of ingrown hairs along your bikini line," he said. "You might think about laser hair removal. Our prices are very competitive. "The wait to see the ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor was only three months. He sent me to a neurologist. The wait was only four months. The neurologist sent me to another ENT. The wait was only two months. The ENT ordered three simple tests, none of which took longer than 15 minutes. When the last one was completed, three months later, I was no longer able to remain upright for more than a couple of hours at a time. I called the neurologist's office. He could see me, eight weeks from the day I called. I was young, people have life-threatening strokes and brain tumours, it was the best they could do. The secretary said she would put me on a cancellation waiting list. There were seven people ahead of me. I told every doctor I saw that I believed something was wrong with my spine. On the days when my head and neck went really crazy, my lower back would seize up as well -- to me, this seemed a clue. But more than that -- I live in my body; I feel its messages. Sometimes you just know. The doctors all said that a spinal cause was unlikely. No one ordered an MRI -- the wait was too long, they said, you will probably just get better with some time off. One doctor told me to breathe into a paper bag when I felt dizzy. Another told me that I might have to live with imbalance and severe discomfort for the rest of my life. Some things in the body, he said, snapping my folder shut, are just a mystery, and sometimes one just has to accept that.
About a year after I sat dazed on that park bench, my family brought me home to Montreal. During the drive, I needed to lie flat in the backseat of the car. My family's doctor in Montreal believed me when I told him I thought my problem was spinal. He did not warn me about the MRI wait. He said there was a private clinic in the tony Westmount Square complex that could take me within a day or two. The cost would be over $1,000. I am a freelancer, and could no longer produce anything. A thousand dollars is nothing to chuckle at, but it was a small sum compared to the increasingly frightening amount I was losing due to my inability to write. I had quit my weekly column. I had put almost everything else, including a discussion salon I run in Toronto, on hiatus. I cried every night, thinking my life had been cut short at 31. I couldn't walk with anything but the most cautious of steps. I couldn't bend my neck. Giving a grand to a private clinic to get to the bottom of what ailed me seemed like nothing less than the best news I had heard all year. I have always been a liberal Canadian. I have supported the idea of 100% socialized medicine, afraid, like so many Canadians today, of the prospect of a two-tiered health-care system that might make the public side descend irreparably into catastrophe; its death knell. But sometimes personal experience flies in the face of ideology. When one is in pain, it's very hard to think politically, to consider the collective. One just wants to get better. One will use whatever aid is possible to do so. The body has a suspension system. It's something you might never think about, but your vertebrae are sided by fluid in the enclosed cylinder of your spinal column. This fluid runs up special highways along your spine, wrapping all around the inside periphery of your skull, keeping your brain and everything else in your head springy and cushioned. It's quite rare than anyone's column will spontaneously spring a leak; a tiny, maybe almost imperceptible hole, like an air seep in a car tire that renders normal driving impossible. It's become clear that for almost two years now I have been losing spinal fluid faster than my body can make it again. My state is what doctors call "hypoglychorrachic," meaning my cerebrospinal fluid pressure is abnormally low. In short, if I felt like my skull was dryly knocking around, and like my ear canals, which began raging with tinnitus, had sunk, and like my neck needed some kind of medical Jiffy Lube, it's because this was all pretty much true. No wonder I felt dizzy. After the private MRI, the family doctor referred me to an excellent neurologist at a Montreal hospital. This neurologist feels a rare breed to me. Against all odds -- and there are many, including too many patients and not enough time -- he is able to shut his door and give his full attention to the patient in the room. He sent me for tests with a gifted young neuro-radiologist, a doctor stretched so thin that his business card bears the names of three different hospitals that all require his services. This youthful doctor still manages to answer e-mails and phone calls the same day he gets them. Sometimes he is still e-mailing at 11 p.m.I have received the most first-rate care from this medical duo, men who have become known in my familial home as "Batman and Robin." It is they who have figured my illness out, who explained what movements and activities might get me in trouble -- something I never understood before -- and what supplements might help me (including, fantastically, caffeine, which can have the strange effect of increasing spinal fluid pressure). It is also they who brought up the idea -- with some chagrin, palpably -- that I might consider continuing my treatment in the United States. My leak hasn't been found in Montreal, so it's hard to figure out where to stymie the flow with a patch. At the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., they have 3-D scanners that can detect the tiniest hairline breach. In the American Midwest, I have been assured that they will likely be able to find the miniscule, elusive source that has sapped my body of its buoyancy. Then doctors will know where to patch it (they fix these holes not with sutures but with an infusion of blood taken from your arm, forming a kind of internal cast when it clots) and with a little luck, I will return to life, good as new for the Toronto autumn. Many pundits have already suggested that in the Supreme Court, the panel's decision fell along political lines. But I believe that the personal, the human, may have affected some of the judges' opinions more. When you have known illness -- as some of the judges in the majority may have -- it can affect your outlook, no matter what your political values were to begin with. I am not a good Canadian socialist in theory and an evil U.S.-style capitalist in practice. Maybe we should stop worrying about "becoming the U.S.," and instead, as Canada does in so many other issues, look to Britain, a place that, perplexingly, remained nearly unmentioned on the CBC in the past couple of newsy nights. There, a two-tiered system has not meant the end of socialized medicine. I am sure that some reading this will think I am writing from a "rich" person's perspective. But I would counter that rather, I am writing from an ailing person's perspective, one that can only lead me to ask: Seeing that what we have now doesn't work, isn't it worth at least openly considering giving something else a try?"
A court-imposed Chaoulli-style decision is at the doorstep of the Liberal’s fiasco of a health system. Will Liberals consider that the resultant emotional distress caused to patients not only by excessive wait times, but also by the subsequent bureaucratic appeals process at HSARB, can become a Charter challenge? The inconsistent precedents are piling up to a critical mass.
On Jan.6, 2006 The Kingston Whig-Standard’s Claude Scilley reported OHIP is suing the corporate owner of the Maple Leafs to recover the costs of counselling those who were sex abuse victims of former employees. The allegation is that the employer is responsible for the acts of its employees. “How far do we trace responsibility?” Scilley asks. “Courts can be capricious. The cost of building a case will be money lost if a suit is unsuccessful; and if costs are awarded to the other side, that’s even more of our healthcare money that won’t be spent on healthcare. We’re waiting to hear if anyone thinks this is just another back door to the privatization of our healthcare system. Indeed, if it comes about, we are making someone pay directly for service we have come to take for granted. There is much to be said for the notion of making people, or organizations, or institutions, responsible for their actions. It may well be that the no-questions-asked universal nature of our healthcare is a luxury we can no longer afford.” In this twist, the Liberal’s OHIP monopoly tries to create a reverse-onus two-tier healthcare system, forcing specific targets through the courts to ‘pay back’ specific health costs after the fact! It’s like paying your outrageous Liberal health taxes only to be sued later for the OHIP coverage you believed was ‘universal’. Should we not then have the choice to opt out of OHIP altogether? Are any of us safe from this new kind of vengeful, misguided, retroactive Liberal retribution? (Again, are the Liberals revealing their duplicitous “hidden agenda” version of Tommy Douglas-style universality?)
Anne Prado wrote of her family’s genetic predisposition to certain tumors that require regular MRI screenings. “Despite years of symptoms, the MRI we obtained privately this past week is the first any of us in the family with this disorder has been able to get. I ask: Is it wrong to pay out $800 to a private clinic to save our child from a potential brain tumor or burst arteriovenous malformation? I find that many people believe in the myth of top-notch, universal-access Canadian healthcare until they actually experience a situation such as ours. Then they know it is not so.” (National Post, Jun.3, 2006)
On Feb.22, 2006 in the Toronto Star, cancer patient Carolyn Henry of London, Ont. wrote “the Ontario government is making life and death decisions about patient care”. She asked, “who at the Ministry of Health is going to decide the dollar value of my life? I need to be a part of that decision. The current ‘plan’ as far as I can tell, is to let people die while waiting” (while Ontario decides which cancer treatments to approve). On Feb.8, 2006 in the St. Catharines Standard, Henry wrote: “For forty years, the government has told us that our healthcare system would be there for us. Today, most people still believe, that in the instance of a catastrophic illness like cancer, our system will look after us. That is not today’s reality...Is this the better access to better care health minister George Smitherman has promised us?”
In Ontario, if your illness is deemed politically incorrect (i.e. unapproved for Liberal funding) you can forget about utopian government healthcare; yet Liberals outlaw the option of buying private healthcare. Why? Shouldn’t Bradley’s Liberals focus on helping citizens who cannot afford to buy their own chemotherapy? Affordability is a factor of high Liberal taxation policies, dogmatic Liberal adherence to a single-payer health monopoly, and Liberal suppression of competitive health insurance.
Do Liberals expect Ontario patients to patiently and meekly wait in line, even if it kills them? In Jim Bradley’s own riding of St. Catharines, Margaret Cowal died while on his Liberal government's healthcare waiting list. The St. Catharines Standard (Oct.5, 2006) reported Cowal was denied out of country coverage for a procedure that OHIP deemed experimental in Ontario, but was available in Cleveland at a cost of US$54,000. She died while attempting an appeal to HSARB. Unbelievable. Again, Bradley was strangely silent as patients in his St. Catharines riding suffered. (Yet, for Christmas, 2006, MPPs gave themselves a 25% salary increase.) Maybe the political theory of 'medicare' should itself be 'deemed experimental', and not worthy of further funding. How much more clinical evidence of medicare's failings do we need right in Niagara?
Pamela Radusin wrote in “Conditions at the General ER are awful” of her mother’s ordeal at the St. Catharines General hospital, where she waited for six hours in ER with a fever. “Why did it take so long to help her? The staff are so understaffed, overworked and busy they couldn’t help but ignore her. I blame the hospital administration and our government. Our health-care system has dropped so low in the last 10 years that people are terrified of getting sick enough that they require hospital care. The worst part was I had to lie to my mother. I couldn’t tell her the system had failed her when she needed it most. They can and should improve the terrible service in our emergency room. They never should have closed the emergency room at the Ontario St. site until the new hospital was built. I’m quite sure that my mother is not the only one to die while waiting for treatment, and she won’t be the last if changes aren’t made. She may have died anyway, but I’ll never know for sure, nor will I ever have any peace about it, because the system failed her.” (St. Catharines Standard, May 3, 2007) Bradley’s Liberals brag how good our socialized medical monopoly is, yet look at the reality behind the façade. Shameful.
A story by Dr. W. Gifford-Jones (“Dr. Gibson deserving of medal”, Saskatoon Phoenix-Star, June 2, 2007) tells volumes about the sorry state Ontario’s health system is in today. He writes of the astounding difficulties encountered by Campbellford Hospital's Dr. Glenn Gibson in getting timely treatment for third-degree burn victim Charlie Godden of Campbellford. Incredibly, in George Smitherman’s Liberal healthcare system, there were no burn trauma units available anywhere in Ontario for Godden. “Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto had five burn units, but no staff to service them, so Dr. Gibson turned to the U.S.”, wrote Gifford-Jones. He detailed all the problems Dr. Gibson encountered with the air ambulance, because its crew was going off shift, then having to arrange an airplane flight himself instead, only to find that it would have no paramedics or necessary ventilation equipment on board, forcing Dr. Gibson to “keep his patient alive by hand ventilation”. Also, Gibson had no passport, and was worried about that. Gifford-Jones wrote that several hours into this ordeal, “Godden’s temperature by this time had dropped due to shock and the low temperature of the airplane. Doctors at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester were amazed Dr. Gibson had been able to keep him alive. Unbelievably, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) now insisted that Godden be returned to Canada for treatment”, but the Strong doctors refused to move him until he had been stabilized. Then the Strong doctors had to “debate” with OHIP about who was to do the immediately-necessary skin graft – so, after three days, Godden was to be sent back to Sunnybrook, because “economics won”, as Gifford-Jones said. (But really, did “economics” win, or, did the patient lose?) The helicopter that was supposed to take Godden back was too large to land at Sunnybrook, so another one had to be found. And despite the fact that the ventilator on board this one was broken, it was decided that Godden would survive the flight back home to Canada. “Rochester physicians were so shocked at this decision, possibly a life-or-death one, that they loaned the plane a ventilator. Once again, thanks to our generous U.S. friends.” Godden, after all of this pain and suffering, finally received his skin grafts “four days after the Campbellford accident, rather than the normal few hours”. Four days of suffering!? Another news item, “Burned man in hospital” (Peterborough Examiner, Osprey News, Aug. 21, 2007) reported a Peterborough area man was airlifted to Rochester’s Strong burn unit, with life-threatening third-degree burns. Will Smitherman be held accountable for this abject failure of his socialist, no-choice Ontario healthcare system? Where were Ontario’s burn unit staff?? What would happen in Ontario if a bus-load of people are burned in an accident? Liberal health minister George Smitherman loves deriding the U.S. healthcare system, but keeps sending Ontarians to the States for treatment that his single-payer medicare Nirvana can’t provide citizens at home. Why are we sending patients to the States? Why are our facilities, which last year cost some $38 billion to run, not available to patients? Why should patients be suffering for Smitherman? How much more of this Liberal treachery can we take?
Chinta Puxley wrote: “Richard Baker, president of Vancouver based Timely Medical Alternatives Inc., said his company wants to sue the province on behalf of a 66 year old Newmarket man, who went to Buffalo N.Y. for an MRI and surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumour...Canada, North Korea, and Cuba are the only three countries in the world that pass laws forbidding people to expedite their own medical care. “I’m hoping to bring us in step with the rest of the world,” he said. At the heart of Baker’s potential lawsuit is Lindsay McCreith, a man from Newmarket who said he couldn’t wait for surgery in Ontario and went to Buffalo instead. OHIP is refusing to foot McCreith’s US$28K bill because the trip wasn’t pre-approved”. Puxley wrote: “Health Minister George Smitherman said the government won’t be blackmailed into two-tier healthcare.” (Nov.16, 2006, Toronto Sun) Yet, Smitherman is morally satisfied for patients to suffer, or die, on his waiting lists? Again, we see the repugnant two-faced Liberal ideology applied against the patient. The health-care system has morphed into an institutionalized health-scare system, no longer meant to serve and protect individual patients, but to protect and serve itself. Patients don't stand a chance against those who pledge allegiance to the single-payer medicare monster.
“Ontario’s healthcare monopoly almost killed Lindsay McCreith” wrote John Carpay (National Post, May 3, 2007), reporting that Mr. McCreith is launching a constitutional challenge to Ontario’s Health Insurance Act and the Liberal’s Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act. The Post’s editorial the same day wrote: “We hope Mr. McCreith’s challenge to Ontario’s antiquated, socialist health system is as successful as the 2005 Chaoulli litigation in Quebec. That would force Ontario politicians to stop living the fantasy that they can prevent private health choices and at the same time shorten waiting times and provide better care.”
Richard K.Baker wrote: “All socialist societies are propped up by a “big lie”. In Canada, the big lie we are asked to accept is that we have the best healthcare system in the world.” He wrote of an “eight year old girl in Vancouver who was unable to get treatment for a massive cranial infection that caused her to lose her hearing. Her parents brought her to us after waiting nine months on a 17-month waiting list. A Seattle surgeon told us that she would have died long before the end of her 17-month wait. Some Canadians feel that people dying on interminably long medical waiting lists is the price we must pay for the best healthcare system in the world.” (National Post, July 11, 2007)
Angela McCallum wrote in the Toronto Star (May 28, 2005) of her grandfather, who after months of agony and misdiagnosis, received a $35,000US gamma-knife treatment in the States, but after initially committing to cover the cost, OHIP then reneged. She asks “How can health insurance administrators arbitrarily decide which patients deserve OHIP coverage?”
Julie Wood wrote: “When my husband needed heart surgery, we were shocked to learn how many people travel to the U.S., at significant cost to themselves, to take advantage of procedures that are not only more timely but also more advanced and effective. The Cleveland clinic is one of a number of American organizations that have set up offices in Canada to facilitate access to U.S. care for Canadians willing and able to make the financial sacrifice to access the superior services available in the U.S…This situation underscores the hypocrisy in the claim that Canadians have better healthcare than Americans. It illustrates one reason why the official measure of healthcare costs in Canada relative to outcomes is understated. It also raises the question of how well the “best system in the world” would cope if all the people who are paying twice for their medical services – once through their taxes and a second time when they go to the U.S. to access timely and state-of-the-art medical care – were forced to stay home and join our waiting lists.” (National Post, July 13. 2007)
The Windsor Star (Nov.18, 2004) wrote of Doug McCort, whose stark choice was to pay $45,000US for brain surgery, or wait 8 months for yet another consultation with a Canadian doctor while his condition deteriorated. OHIP denied his claim because the treatment was also available here. The McCorts said that by the time the Ontario system could have accommodated them, it would have been too late to prevent a stroke-like paralysis. “People shouldn’t have to live through what we lived through” Cindy McCort said. “I think it’s a failure of the system.” ‘Wait and see me in a year’ she said, quoting their Toronto specialist. They praised the care at Michigan’s Providence Hospital as outstanding.
On Dec.21, 2005 in the St. Catharines Standard story, "Our healthcare system failed Patti Gallagher", Jackie Phelan passionately wrote about her late friend’s ordeal in Niagara’s health system after brain surgery. She asked: “Why do we have to wait so long for MRIs and CAT scans? Why do they do all the MRIs and CAT scans when it is too late?” She pointedly stated: “We are at the mercy of the healthcare system, and are afraid to speak out in case we need it”. She poignantly closed: “By the way, today is Dec. 21, the day Patti was supposed to have her follow-up CAT scan.” What’s Bradley’s rhetorical excuse?
Astoundingly, not two years later, Phelan appeared in St. Catharines newspaper ads endorsing Bradley during his 2007 re-election campaign! So Jackie, "why do we have to wait so long"? Did she get an answer from the Liberal she endorsed whose failing system we are at the mercy of?!? Unreal! It's like St. Catharines is suffering from a political variant of Stockholm syndrome, called Bradley Syndrome, where a mesmerized populace, afraid to speak out, willingly and blindly keeps re-electing the same old politician for thirty years, blithely unable to discern that his policies are causing harm!
The St. Catharines Standard (Nov.12, 2005) wrote of cancer patient Leonard Chester, who was forced up front to pay for his Leustatin because, living in Niagara, he was deemed geographically ineligible for the same funding as patients in other parts of Ontario. He received OHIP restitution only after a public outcry.
A Feb.18, 2006 St. Catharines Standard story by Peter Downs, "Hospital backlog forces twins’ cross-border birth", shows that, when medical reality supersedes Liberal rhetoric, Ontario gave the newborn Coote twins no choice but to be born in the U.S.A. Bradley's response was not found in the story. What is Bradley’s explanation for Niagara’s lack of access to high-risk neo-natal space, in 2006? How ironic that, despite smug Liberal disdain of “American-style healthcare” it was Buffalo’s Women and Children’s Hospital that accepted St. Catharines mom Mena Coote when astoundingly no other hospital in Ontario would. Must Ontario babies “wait” to be born according to a politician’s schedule?
Is this new? Let’s go back to Jan.21, 1988, when Brampton doctor Paul Byrne wrote in the Toronto Star of an expectant mom who at 30 weeks was: “taken to Buffalo, as there were no high-risk facilities available to accept her in Ontario. So it has come to this. Buffalo, the butt of Toronto’s jokes, has to bail us out of very ticklish and life-threatening situations. And not once, but several times. People were told by the Peterson-Rae government and the media that the only thing which stood in the way of their getting quality care was a bunch of greedy doctors. Well, Ontario, you banned extra-billing, even though 90% of doctors didn’t anyway. Ask these high-risk obstetrical patients if health care is more accessible now.”
Ontarians are still asking that very same question - in 2007.
In 1988, when Dr. Byrne was asking “if healthcare is more accessible now”, Jim Bradley had already been sitting as St. Catharines’ MPP for a decade, and his governing Liberals even then were pushing their dreadful (and ironically named) “Health Care Accessibility Act”. How’d that turn out? Is healthcare more accessible now than when Bradley was first elected in 1977?
Liberals dismiss the views of all these Ontarians as anecdotal complaints of a scattered minority, or as Smitherman dismissively calls them, “obscure voices agitating for two-tier healthcare”. Will Smitherman sacrifice these disgruntled citizens as collateral damage for the political expediency of perpetuating Tommy Douglas’ Great Radiant Future? Smitherman said, back on May 4, 2004 in the Peterborough Examiner: “The point we’re making as a new government is, we got elected on a results-based mandate”.
Unfortunately, we have now seen and suffered those results based on Liberal broken promises. It's frightening what the Liberals will now do to Ontario patients by 2011.
Nineteen years after Dr. Byrne’s letter, sanctimonious Liberals - who acknowledge that they can’t “do it all” - nevertheless dogmatically obstruct Ontarians seeking to look after themselves. By June 2007, McGuinty, again on the campaign trail, was claiming he won’t raise taxes, as he did in 2003. These fibbing, ‘flicking’ Liberals are still obscuring their own two-tier hypocrisy, still raising health-taxes, still claiming healthcare is inaccessible, still banning choice, still attacking doctors, still causing shortages, still facing hospital backlogs, still having patients die on waiting lists, still blaming others, still demonizing Americans, still shuffling patients off to Buffalo…and we’re still wondering: why?
© R. Bobak, Nov.17, 2007