When Tommy Douglas introduced Medicare in Saskatchewan over 50 years ago, he had to battle against insurance companies and some doctors who believed that health was a way for them to make money. He won.
The doctors who are dedicated to their profession more than their bank accounts won and eventually, all Canadians won. Our health care system became part of our birthright as Canadians and it created an important distinction between us and our American neighbours.
Unfortunately, health care in this country is under increasing attack. The Harper government has not renewed the Health Accord that expired on March 31, and as such, the provinces are faced with huge financial cuts that will impact our ability to access quality and universal health care.
At the same time, there is a court challenge waged by Dr. Brian Day of Vancouver to change health care in BC.
Dr. Day runs a for-profit clinic in Vancouver and prefers the American style of health care that allows doctors to charge what they want and wealthier citizens to access what they can afford to pay for, leaving the rest of us and our public system hurting.
That isn’t how he would describe his case. He would say that he is trying “to strike down draconian laws, the likes of which do not exist in any other country on earth” (taken from a Vancouver newspaper interview).
Draconian for who? People who can afford to pay but must wait for opportunities like the rest of us?
There is no doubt that our public health care system has been squeezed by funding cuts for years but that is a political act that is being deliberately perpetrated by a federal government that prefers profits over people.
A legal challenge will not change those priorities, only the electorate can. Legal challenges to our health acts will not provide required health care access to Kaslo or citizens around Castlegar after 8 p.m. Legal challenges have the potential to strike down the very legislation and public policy that allows our healthcare system to function, as beaten up as it currently is.
Most people had no idea that a 10-year health agreement quietly died on March 31 and that is the way government likes it. We won’t notice the impact until we require hospital care but by then, the nurses, doctors, technicians and equipment will disappear due to lack of funding.
Line ups will become longer and more frustrating or, if the legal challenge prevails, the human and technical resources will disappear into private holdings and those who have the funds to pay will get what they can afford.
Tommy Douglas didn’t know we would have to fight this battle all over again.
Cindy McCallum Miller