Here's Canadian Health Minister Tony Clement's comment on yesterday's wait-times story, (National Post,Oct.17, 2007):
"Re: Surgery Waits Longest Yet, Oct.16.
It is important to highlight the fact that the data used by the Fraser Institute is based on doctors' estimates, not hard fact. The studies conducted by the Canadian Institute of Health Information are much more accurate. The institute tracks the actual number of surgeries performed in Canada on an annual basis. It reports that in priority areas identified by governments, surgeries are up 7%. Even in non-priority areas, surgery volume has increased 2%. In June 2007, the Health Council of Canada also reported that data from some jurisdictions and for some services do show that wait times have declined, "in some cases dramatically."I, like all Canadians, value our publicly funded, universally accessible health care system. Our commitment to wait times reduction is clear. Our government has made historic increases in health funding -- over $1-billion focused on wait times alone -- and this year signed Patient Wait Time Guarantees with all provinces and territories. We are well on our way to creating a stronger, better health care system of which all Canadians can be proud."
Yes, this is all fine and proper, until a Supreme Court challenge finds otherwise. Then, the state's monopoly would be subject to challenge, competition, and hopefully, a meaningful choice would develop for patients. Which in no way at all suggests that the provinces would be able to walk away from their responsibilities. It would mean, as distateful as it seems to those protected by monopoly,that they would have to compete for patients.