Randall Denley wrote in "Our health system broken, but few care", Windsor Star, Aug.7, 2009):
"Dr. Robert Ouellet and U.S. President Barack Obama have something in common.
Both are urging fundamental reform in the way their countries approach health care, and both are getting strong resistance from those who favour the status quo.
The president of the Canadian Medical Association has spent most of the last year trying to interject some common sense into Canadian health care. Unfortunately, Canadians prefer to keep plugging along just as they have in the past, despite mounting evidence that our system is inefficient and doesn't serve patients nearly as well as it should for the money we spend.
Two recent reports make that important point. The latest health statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development show that Canada was the fifth-highest spender among the 31 countries assessed in 2007. Despite that, we have below-average numbers of doctors, nurses, acute care hospital beds, CT scanners and MRIs. Another study, the Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index, looked at a wide variety of healthcare statistics from 32 countries and tried to assess "bang for the buck" in each national healthcare system.
Canada finished last.
The two think-tanks responsible for the study don't claim that their methodology is perfect, but the conclusion is clear: Canada can do a lot better for the money it is spending.
That's the point that Ouellet has been trying to drive home, and he has some ideas about how we can do it. His central message is that we should have a patient-centred system. "If the healthcare system is not centred on the patient, who is it centred on?" he asks.
Consider the never-changing list of intractable Canadian healthcare problems: We have long wait times for a wide variety of medical services. Our emergency room rooms are clogged. Our hospital beds are often filled with people who should be getting long-term care instead.
We are not the only country to have these problems, but others have found solutions.
Ouellet has visited England, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and France to study their systems. All offer universal access, as does Canada. In England, he found that teams of doctors, nurses and hospital administrators had worked to streamline emergency room procedures, and there is now a four-hour wait time benchmark.
Hospital funding in Britain has been changed so that they are paid for the services they provide.
In Canada, our hospitals get a global budget that reflects the increase the government is prepared to pay, combined with a guess at service volume. Every patient the hospital sees drains that budget, leading to the dreaded deficit and the predictable annual scolding from government. In the British system, patients bring the hospital revenue, so there is an incentive to treat more of them, not fewer. That sounds costly, but it is balanced by tough efficiency targets.
In Denmark, long-term care is a municipal responsibility and if there is no space, the municipality has to pay the hospital. That provides an incentive to provide long-term care homes. In Canada, one government pays either way, so there isn't much incentive.
Denmark also has a safety valve for cancer patients. If they can't get treatment within one month, they are allowed to go to a private clinic and the government health system pays.
The idea of an alternative to the current monopoly on most major forms of health care is critical to the idea of a patient-first system, Ouellet argues. Without it, there is no real pressure for government health care to deliver timely results and no alternative for patients when it doesn't. Ouellet himself is a radiologist who runs a private clinic in Quebec providing service to those whose health benefits will cover it.
Ouellet's point makes sense, but as soon as the words "private health care" are mentioned in Canada, we launch into comparisons with the American system, surely the most costly and least efficient in the world. Our universal healthcare system is held up as a Canadian value, as if we were the only ones who had it.
It's an irrational way to see the situation. There is already a substantial private sector involvement here in things such as diagnostic testing, and that's not an issue. When we use our supplementary medical benefits to pay for an eye exam, prescription drugs or physiotherapy, we are all using private medicine. These are things government provides in limited supply or not at all. Should we ban these extras?
As Ouellet envisions it, a somewhat expanded private sector would not be a parallel system drawing away doctors from public health care, but rather an opportunity for doctors to do supplementary work without restrictions on their operating time or long waits for diagnostic tests. The bulk of any physician's billing would still be in the public system.
Ouellet reports that health ministers have been listening to what he has to say, although there is limited action so far. When government does act, it is usually to throw more money at the problem and hope that it will resolve itself. As the international studies show, Canada's problem is not a lack of money in the system, it's a lack of thinking about how we spend it. We should start by being more open-minded, and by considering how countries very much like our own have dealt with the same problems."
Look how open minded Ontario's Tax-and-Spend Liberals are - Greg Sorbara raised a new health tax after Liberals lied they wouldn't raise taxes; Dalton McGuinty and MPP Liberal Jim Bradley ran on their patented fearmongering allegations about 'Harris and two tier' - then, once elected, George Smitherman cut health care - while Liberals raised billions in new health taxes.
McGuinty dumps money into a health system which Smitherman claimed 'we didn't even have'.
As for health care, the focus, as far as any Liberal is concerned, is not on the patient - it's on maintaining the Liberals' duplicitous political status-quo as supposed-defenders of some kind of storied Tommy Douglasonian vision, regardless of how harmful or inefficient that Utopian ideal may be. (The federal Liberals' sanctimonious reaction to Pierre Pettigrew's mild reform ideas is a classic example.)
Remember how McGuinty fearmongered back in Apr.27, 2001, in the Toronto Star: "We've been saying for some time now that Mike Harris has a secret agenda to promote two-tier health care in Ontario and now the secret is out" when Harris touched on similar ideas that Ouellet is now trying to discuss. Look how much time has been lost and wasted since. Years later, the Chaoulli decision came in Quebec, yet McGuinty's ideologues still did nothing to phase in patient-choice and monopoly reforms - instead, they hardened their monopoly, cut budgets, and raised taxes.
They forced people like Suzanne Aucoin and Shona Holmes to the United States for health treatment. Secretive Liberals such as Jim Bradley hide from scrutiny and refuse to provide any information as to how many patients Ontario sends to the United states - and why.
McGuinty's Liberals love to fearmonger about any proposed competitive changes to their health monopoly - aka McGuinty's Health Control Board - while doing nothing but throwing money into their monopolist black-hole and hoping that somehow things get better.
Meanwhile, the Liberals hide from scrutiny and accountability, and refuse to discuss the link to their global budget-funding model (distributed through their puppet LHINs) and subsequent hospital budget and service cuts, hospital board takeovers, and patient death-rates.
The "secret agenda" of McGuinty's Grits is to delay any changes to their failing monopolism, for as long as possible, no matter how many patients they inconvenience or hurt; in the hope that they will be rescued from actually dealing with their own failed ideology by a court decision telling them what they should have already figured out - that their monopolist single-payer health care is a failure.
The irrational part is: that while knowing this - McGuinty and his Liberal statist single-payer-pushing monopolist goons
nevertheless continue to sadistically assault the patients of Ontario.