Friday, March 14, 2008

Liberal "health-card" doesn't equal "health-care".

In “Doctors could have performed surgeries at other hospitals, Health Ministry says”, the St. Catharines Standard (Mar.13, 2008) reported that our local monopoly health-care franchise, the NHS (Niagara Health System), “announced a “20% reduction in the elective surgery caseload at the hospital from March 17 to May 2. This decision to perform fewer operations could affect as many as 190 patients waiting for a variety of pre-scheduled, non-emergency procedures.”

Interesting, isn't it, how the Ministry of Health also quickly assigned blame onto doctors, as the Standard reported, by claiming that the postponement list at the Greater Niagara General Hospital in Niagara Falls is longer than it should be because “surgeons “rejected” the idea of operating on their patients at other Niagara Hospitals.

Forget about asking (or proving) whether any of the other NHS hospitals themselves were even prepared and able to assume this patient load…where specifically were these patients to go?? Welland? Pt. Colborne? St. Catharines? Grimsby? Hamilton? Toronto?

Why not just state the obvious and include Buffalo, then, as well. Or does Health Minister George Smitherman, whose system is so ready to shunt patients around, ‘reject’ that solution? Today, it’s elective surgery which the Liberals can’t deliver…what’ll it be tomorrow, a shortage of emergency surgeries?

Such blatant “fobbing off”, (as MPP Jim Bradley used to say), of the Health Ministry’s own policy failures under the stewardship of Captain Smitherman (or Mr. Medicare, as he fancies himself) reminds me of the attacks and doctor-bashing practised by the Ontario's David Peterson Liberal government in the 1980’s. (See: Can Jim Bradley explain why he "stood up and said 'I hate doctors'"?) I hope this Liberal 'blame the doctor' tactic isn’t rearing its ugly head again: it got the Liberals a lot of votes back then, didn’t it?

The Standard’s Mar.13, 2008 report also reminds me of the Ontario Auditor’s findings of just several months ago, which were already reporting indications of systemic closures and shortages through-out Ontario’s health-care monopoly, for extended periods of time.

In: Ombudsman must investigate Liberal health monopoly, (Dec.30, 2007) I wrote about this CTV report detailing the Ontario Auditor’s findings:

““Another concern raised in the annual audit surrounded wait times for surgeries. McCarter said about 40 per cent of hospital operating rooms were not being used during nine weeks in the summer of 2006. He also said surgical facilities are frequently closed on weekends and during the Christmas holidays and March Break. The report found vacation staffing schedules were behind the closed operating rooms. The audit also showed that despite government focus on surgical wait times, Ontario has no idea how many operating rooms the province has or adequate information on how many patients are waiting for specific surgeries.” [from report by Paul Bliss, CTV News, Dec. 12, 2007]
As if the above is not enough, add recent reports that the main hospital in Jim Bradley’s riding of St. Catharines has been found to have abnormally high patient death rates - which apparently wasn’t enough for Jim Bradley to immediately call for an inquiry.”

The Ontario Liberals and Premier Dalton McGuinty still have not responded to those findings. During the election, the Liberals pretended that there were no problems in their health-monopoly. (Let's not forget that the Auditor found health-care shortages occurred in 2006 during March break - and now, during March break 2008, it's happening again.)

Isn’t the experience of these 190 patients yet another concrete example of Liberal health-care duplicity, right in Niagara, where Liberal health-care promises made, were government promises not kept?

Can’t these 190 patients collectively launch a class action lawsuit against the Ministry of Health?

Did any of these patients actually have an enforceable contract with their government-run health-care system? Were they correct in assuming, or expecting, that they were actually going to receive the health-care promised by the McGuinty Liberal’s system? Or were they mistaken to assume that Liberal health-care rhetoric was the same thing as actual health-care provision? Was there some implict guarantee of receiving health-care from our government-run health monopoly? If so, is that a guarantee of anything at all?

What choice, recourse, or compensation was given to these patients? Aside from the patronizing political rhetoric, essentially these patients were told to lump it and wait. Yeah…you got an Ontario health card…but you got no Ontario health-care.

Shouldn’t the defendants be the Government of Ontario, and each Liberal MPP now sitting in that majority government? Should these politicians be personally shielded from accountability when their policies go haywire? Should these politicians be held harmless for not delivering what they promised? (Or is that, what they appeared to promise? In which case: they delivered exactly what they promised: an illusion of health-care, but not actual health-care!)

Should these politicians be immune to the hardships their policies cause patients? Weren’t these politicians (through their own government policies) negligent with providing necessary health-care; and, fraudulent, with their endless promises to do so? Taking on the burden, the mantle, of imposing and propagating a choice-denying health-monopoly, and then, failing to provide upon that obligation, is immoral, and should also be illegal.

Perhaps only after such a lawsuit is heard, can all Ontarians be armed with a specific legal definition next time any vote-buying politician of any stripe prefaces the phrase “health-care” with the vague assumptions embodied within words such as “universal”, or “two-tier”, or “single-payer”, or “timely”, or "covered", or “quality”, or “necessary”.

As it now stands, such loose, fluid, ambiguous “definitions” allow politicians incredible leeway to bamboozle us with their unaccountable, undeliverable health-care promises.

It’s one reason why Ontarians should pay attention to the health-care Charter challenges launched in 2007 by Mr. Lindsay McCreith and Ms. Shona Holmes. This may turn out to be Ontario’s health-care equivalent to Quebec’s Chaoulli decision.

As for these 190 inconvenienced Niagara patients – instead of not giving a shit, Mr. Smitherman should give them a chit which is redeemable in Quebec or the States so that they can get on with their treatment – with no mandatory grovelling at HSARB, either. Until Smitherman’s Liberal system can provide actual health-care when such care is demanded of it, this minister will have to set his rhetoric aside and allow these patients access to health-care elsewhere, where it is available. In any case, we are paying for this Liberal health-care fiasco, one way or another.

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