Saturday, November 24, 2007

Time for Ontario towns to declare themselves a medicare-free zone!

Niagara This Week’s series of healthcare stories, “Is there a doctor in the house?”, (Nov.23, 2007) was refreshingly detailed, varied, and surprisingly candid.

We should be asking tough questions about the nature of socialized healthcare and the results it has brought after some forty years of imposition.

It’s unfortunate this story didn't appear prior to the Oct. 2007 Ontario election, because healthcare is a provincial responsibility, and this election sadly took place in a virtual vacuum of healthcare debate.

St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley barely said anything about healthcare: all was good. Any problems were typically glossed over and downplayed. He’s building us a hospital, you see, soon…well, eventually…so we should be grateful to Bradley and his Liberals for their great effort to do this favour on our behalf!

Healthcare was always ‘in crisis’ when Bradley’s Liberals were in opposition, you see. Now, as far as Grits would have us believe, all is well.

NTW wrote “The OMA estimates Ontario needs at least 1,000 family doctors now”.
However, I’ve read reports (National Post, Nov.15, 2007) where the Ontario Medical Association’s Janice Willett says Ontario is short 2,000 GP’s and specialists. The Liberals aren't close to delivering either number.

Gord Bowes column “Faith-based funding should be all or nothing” was equally refreshing: this is a writer who should appear more often. McGuinty and his Liberals were nothing less than “smarmy” in how they hypocritically flamed the faith-based-funding issue, pandering to an embarrassing latent bigotry in the populace. Yet, about 1.2 million Ontarians (which is almost 10% of our population) don’t have a family doctor, and this wasn’t even an election issue!

Mike Williscraft’s comments in “Doctor shortage needs more attention”, regarding physicians and “priority” waiting lists are also timely and worth further debate.

Why are local councils subsidizing health care in the first place - it’s a provincial responsibility. Our medicare myth has for too long promulgated the illusion that there are no priorities or preferences, let alone waiting-lists, in socialized healthcare. Many of us cling to the perception that socialized medicare delivered by a single-payer government monopoly, in and of itself, can’t be the source of our current problems.

It is an insidious argument that just because a fed-up municipality foolishly puts up, for example, $50,000 to lure doctors to their jurisdiction (because the province failed to fulfil its obligations) somehow then entitles that municipality’s citizens to preferential treatment. This is specifically the kind of muddled, egalitarian argument that is bogging down our entire system.

You want socialized medicare, but then you want to claim entitlement to priority socialized medicare?! You want the doctor beholden to government lists as a servile civil servant?

Such meddling by various layers of government, constant interference, and centralist manipulation, mixed with a blind belief that just a little bit more big-government intervention will cure healthcare’s woes, is manifest all around us: it’s even emotionally ingrained to be part of our patriotic national psyche.

It would be interesting to see those municipalities who use taxpayer cash to lure doctors to their jurisdiction try something bold, something radical – to rise up in the face of Ontario’s restrictive, failing healthcare monopoly and declare their jurisdiction a government-monopoly-medicare-free zone to encourage medical practices. It could be a kind of incubator functioning in the vacuum of the province’s ineptitude to deliver on its obligations, and to alleviate the market-restrictions of its health monopoly. They’ll then see how fast Health Minister George Smitherman flies over to complain and shut them down!

Let him try.

Such a symbolic declaration by towns across Ontario would show the extent of the problem and the unnecessary discontent and suffering Smitherman's monopoly is causing.

Ontario’s Liberals are already facing a constitutional court challenge from plaintiffs Lindsay McCreith and Shona Holmes, similar to Quebec’s Chaoulli challenge, which brings into question the Liberal government’s “right” to deny patients timely medical treatment, while at the same time banning patients the option of arranging for their care themselves.

Williscraft is correct in observing that “what is being done is not enough”. It depends on whether you believe in shared market solutions or government–only solutions. What the Liberals are doing is putting Ontarians at risk in waiting lines, then exporting patients to the States for treatment that medicare is unable to provide here.

Should we continue to dump more money into Ontario's plainly-evident failure of socialized medicare? (As premier Dalton McGuinty himself said during the televised leaders' debate during the last campaign, Ontario already spends 50% of its budget on healthcare).

Or should the Ontario Liberals reform their failed Commitment To The Future of Medicare Act, before the courts do their job for them and render that authoritarian legislation obsolete?

Should we remove the federal Canada Health Act from its pedestal, and make it more accountable to actual patients, rather than function as an 'enabler' maintaining the status-quo? The CHA could be reformed so it would no longer be used as a shield to cover inept provincial health systems which operate exclusively as single-payer, single-provider monopolies.

Patients should have access to choice in buying private health insurance, and Ontario’s restrictive OHIP health marketing board should face payer and provider competition.

We should seek a healthy private-parallel health-care system.

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