Friday, October 24, 2008

Liberal health-care in Ontario: pay more, get less

All the recent Niagara Health System (NHS) debate has unfortunately focused on where the new hospital is to be, but we should be looking at what the NHS is.

It is a failing, Liberal government-run, unaccountable monopoly.

There is no patient choice in this system. There is no competition for its services.

There is no other alternative available. Ontarians are forced to take whatever the government deems fit to give.

Patients are at the mercy of bureaucrats and their political masters.

There are systemic problems with our health care system which are inherently related to the fact that it is a failing, government-run, one-tier monopolistic construct. The patient is at the mercy of a government more interested in single-payer ideology than in patient health.

The concept of universal health care is not synonymous with single-tier, government-run monopoly health care - but that is what politicians want us to believe. When government decides to cut health care (as the Liberals just did by cutting $50 million from nurse hiring; or by amalgamating and consolidating health care services; both under the guise of 'saving money') the patient suffers: yet, we have no other choice elsewhere in Ontario to obtain our health care when the government fails to deliver.

The NHS is solely funded by Dalton McGuinty's majority Liberal government. The LHIN is a Liberal-government created, appointed, and funded construct as well. The Liberal government and the Minister of Health are responsible for the conduct of the NHS.

The two local pointmen in all this, St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley, and Niagara Falls Liberal MPP Kim Craitor, are strangely quiet on the NHS consolidation plan. Back in late 2007 - when this was only an 'organizational review' (remember that?!) - Jim Bradley at the time simply dismissed what eventually came to be today's HIP, calling this review - before it even started - just “routine stuff” (St. Catharines Standard, Dec.7, 2007)! [see also: High patient death rates deserve only "routine" Liberal review ]

But why isn't the press discussing WHY this 'organizational review' was called for, in the first place?

Why isn't anyone mentioning the Nov. 2007 CIHI report (conveniently released shortly after McGuinty's 2007 re-election!!) which revealed that the NHS's St. Catharines General Hospital had the third-highest patient mortality rate in Canada? (see St. Catharines Standard story, "NHS review pondered", Dec.7, 2007)

Despite my repeated requests, a smug, secretive Jim Bradley has refused to answer or publicly explain why this occurred in his Liberal-run health monopoly - under his watch, and right in his own city.

Why isn't anyone asking why Jim Bradley and his Liberals did not immediately launch an independent investigation into the 2007 CIHI results? Then later, in 2008, we saw the Liberal majority government of Ontario again hide from scrutiny and accountability, by denying the ombudsman the ability to investigate McGuinty's health monopoly - which killed nearly 500 people (that we know of) in a system-wide C. difficile outbreak.

We have also seen the Liberals deny that there is any link to the CIHI-uncovered death-rate and the Liberal's health care funding. On the other hand, the NHS consistently says that they are rationalizing to save costs, to meet budgets, to eliminate deficits - which all link back to funding!

Yet - who set those guidelines, if not McGuinty's Liberal government ?!

Where are the billions raised from McGuinty's Liberal Health Tax?

Once again, to the detriment to patients, McGuinty is cutting health care to ostensibly ‘save costs’ – yet his Liberals still continue to chain patients, forcing them to wait in Ontario’s no choice health care monopoly.

This is patently unfair.

Perhaps soon the court decision in the McCreith/Holmes charter challenge will be announced, showing the unconstitutionality of McGuinty’s single-tier health care monopolism.

In a Oct.21, 2008 story, “Report warns of rising costs for health care; ‘Canadians need to consider alternatives to the status quo’”, the National Post wrote (red emphasis mine):

“Soaring costs could force most provinces to spend more than 50% of their revenue on health care by 2036, says a new report, which urges Canadians to consider alternatives to the status quo if they "want a sustainable, high-quality health care system."

"Over the past 10 years, health care spending in nine out of 10 provinces has grown at an unsustainable rate," said Brett Skinner, the lead author of the Fraser Institute report. "Unless governments find a better way to finance health care, then provincial governments will likely be looking at tax hikes, further rationing of medical goods and services, or ugly trade-offs with other important spending areas."

According to the study -- "Paying More, Getting Less" -- provincial spending on health care is growing faster than revenues with six of 10 provinces projected to disburse more than 50% of all available revenue on health care by 2036.

Leading the way is New Brunswick, which is expected to reach the 50% threshold within 11 years. Manitoba could hit that target within 12 years.

Newfoundland and Labrador will likely reach the 50% point within 17 years, followed by Nova Scotia in 19 years. Saskatchewan could take 25 years to reach the 50% point and Ontario 28 years.

The report recommends several changes to Canada's public health system, such as legalizing the right of patients to pay privately for all types of medical services and permit for-profit and non-profit health providers to compete for the delivery of publicly insured health services.

Canadians need to consider alternatives to the status quo if we want a sustainable, high-quality health care system. Doing nothing means that Canadians will continue to pay more and get less when it comes to health care," Mr. Skinner said.

(click graph to enlarge)
The report by the conservative think-tank predicts that British Columbia will likely take 31 years to reach the 50% point, followed by P. E. I., 61 years and Quebec, 86 years.
Alberta is the only province where total revenues have grown at a rate comparable to health care spending during the past 10 years.
According to the Fraser Institute the peer-reviewed study uses Statistics Canada data from the past 10 years to project growth trends in government spending on health care versus total revenue.”

Funny, but Dalton McGuinty has ALREADY said - during the 2007 election - that his government is already spending half of its budget on health care! [see video: Was Dalton McGuinty fibbing about Ontario's Liberal healthcare spending during the Sep.20, 2007 CTV televised Leaders' Debate? ]
The Liberals should have long ago acknowledged that both their health-care ideology and their health-care monopoly are failing. The Liberals should have long ago planned for a phased-in and tempered transition to a moderate private/parallel system, rather than play with patient health by gambling on winning the McCreith/Holmes health-care court challenge.
We can't rely on McGuinty's political health-care pipe-dream promises much longer.

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