The politics of hospitals - part 2

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Last week we discussed the shortages in health care, including burned out doctors and nurses and the much-promoted cost savings....

To this very day we are told time and time again that this country has the lowest per capita number of doctors. Our waiting time as a result of such a percentage is overwhelming, but this is a smoke screen, for both of these facts have nothing to do with medical care, yet everything to do with the quantity of seats available at medical universities; it also has to do with the medical associations and their influence on the number of doctors brought into Canada; it has to do with power struggles and the employment of medical terms, which have changed, and in so doing, changed our direction. Terms like welfare, bien-être, fairness, bonheur have been replaced with cost per patient, savings, and meeting budget lines.

In my case, elderly got sick, and instead of being redirected to well-trained and available nursing homes, these frail elderly patients occupied hospital beds. See, the solution would be for home support, rather than hospital beds, while simultaneously increasing the acute-care beds in hospitals. So when elderly arrive at hospital emergency rooms, they have an alternative place to go, instead of hospital beds. The statistics for 2007–08 just out, indicate that the equivalent of 5,200 hospital beds in Canada were occupied by patients who spent 10 days and sometimes months, instead of being properly allocated to facilities that could offer the specific long-term care they needed. In our community, with a known aging population, (we’re living on a time bomb) unless this problem is addressed, just about every family eventually will be affected. As John Ralston Saul so clearly points out, “Politicians have huffed and puffed, proposing such silly bandage solutions as formal limits on waiting times. That is equivalent of ordering there to be fewer traffic accidents without addressing drivers’ skills, cell phone use, drinking and driving and road conditions.” Fools have always scared me every since I was a child, and having foolish elected officials over a 15-year-plus period not addressing this problem, has scared me into finally asking for change. What are doing to protect my hospitalization, health care service from falling further?

The privatization argument is simple to understand when you first realize that to move their agenda on privatization, people like Dr. Brian Day, president of the Canadian Medical Association since 2006, who would like a two-tier health care system and argue that it would be cheaper, say so and distort the facts. Dr. Day maintains that Canada spends more on health care than any country except the United States. Not true. Germany, France, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland all spend more as a percentage of their national economy, and yet all have a two-tier system. Britain is short not only on beds but also on doctors, and sends patients to France. So why France? Well, because they have a surplus of doctors to beds. Why? Because France has a sound public system. You’ve heard the politicians and Dr. Day say “private systems take pressure off the public system.”

Here’s the other side of the so-called truth: John Ralston Saul presents “the same thing happens when a critical mass of the elite send their children to private schools. The pressure from the top to make the public system work, effectively and at a high level, leaks away. Why? The elite are no longer participants. They are merely noblesse oblige managers

Presently there are 1,500 Canadians going to medical school outside of Canada and the United States because of a shortage of spots here. A large majority of those schools operate at or above Canadian standards, in such countries as Britain, Australia, and Ireland. Because of no formal agreement upon graduating, these doctors will not be able to return home to practice. Four to five million Canadians are without a family doctor, not five hundred. Still, government bureaucrats as well as universities as well as medical associations continue to act as business as usual. John Ralston Saul further asked the question, “What does the government fear in dealing with the pharmaceutical companies? Is it a matter of corruption? Political support for big government parties is well documented. For example, under the conservative-driven Brian Mulroney administration, “special status was given to certain pharmaceutical corporations in the passing of two pieces of legislation in 1987 and in 1993, which was for the creation and ongoing expansion of a research and development sector in Montreal.” As of the writing of this article two decades later, the corporations haven’t fulfilled their commitment. These companies spend more money on marketing than on research. It is estimated that a ratio of 3 to 1 exists, or $4.5 billion on marketing versus $1.5 billion on research.

Humans are like plants: the goodness and flavour of the fruit proceeds from the particular soil and exposition in which we all grow. We are nothing but what we derive from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, the government we obey, the system of religion we profess, and the nature of our employment. Canadians care about their health care system; they care about assuring access on a timely basis to all; and they are willing to pay for such services. Isn’t it time we take are health care back from those who see it as a money service rather than health bonheur, fairness and bien-être to all? Tell your federal member of parliament that these are the good jobs he promised us on election night years ago and that the citizens of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry deserve it. Keep your bridges, roads and double-tire arenas—give us hospital beds when we need it—which is now.

Organizations: Canadian Medical Association

Geographic location: Canada, France, United States Britain Germany Switzerland Norway Iceland Australia Ireland Montreal Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry

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