By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on July 24, 2020.
American-style medical system would be a bad deal for Albertans
I had hoped that by the time I was writing this column in July that we would have had much of the worst of the pandemic behind us. I hoped that we would have successfully flattened the curve, and put in place the measures necessary to stem the spread and protect our most vulnerable from this virus. And perhaps most of all, I hoped that Premier Kenney and his government would work to strengthen our public health system so that our frontline workers were supported should a second wave come later this year.
Unfortunately, none of these things have come to pass, despite the hard work of our frontline workers and so many members of the public who have masked up, physically distanced and made sacrifices to prevent the spread. Despite these remarkable efforts of social solidarity, we are beginning to see troubling upticks in our case counts in Alberta. Though these increases remain much more modest than what we have seen in the U.S. where the virus continues to spread unabated, aided substantially by a health-care system that prioritizes profit over human lives, we must all redouble our efforts to control the virus – including our provincial government.
This resolve does not seem to be there from Jason Kenney and his UCP government, however. In fact, his government’s moves on health care have actively complicated our province’s efforts to combat the virus. There are so many ways in which the premier has compromised our health system, from his war with doctors that has caused physicians to flee our small towns and rural communities, to his continued failure to properly fund our frontline workers in their fight against this disease. However, his most recent attack on our public health-care system is the most concerning.
With Bill 30, which the government introduced earlier this month, Jason Kenney is opening the door to American style, for-profit health care. Yes, the same system that has failed so terribly south of the border is the same one that our premier is hoping to bring to Alberta in the midst of a global pandemic. This bill allows for the creation and maintenance of not just private health clinics like we have seen in the past that offer “memberships” and unlisted services to the wealthy and well-connected so they can effectively jump the queue, but it allows for-profit hospitals like we see in the U.S. The end result of these sorts of changes is inevitable: two-tier health care that will drain the public system of resources, physicians and staff, leaving one standard of care for those who can afford it and a lower level for the rest of us.
The fact of the matter is that we know that this kind of American-style health care is a bad deal. It’s a bad deal for patients who need to be taken care of when they’re sick. It’s a bad deal economically because it’s much more expensive than publicly delivered systems. And perhaps worst of all, it’s a bad deal when it comes to delivering public health outcomes, like we are currently seeing with the failed American response to COVID-19. Given that we don’t even know the long-term health impacts that COVID has on those who have contracted it, there could not be a worse time to be opening the door to a health-care system that rations health care based on whether you can pay for it, instead of whether you are sick or not.
I have said in this column before that our public health system is a promise that Canadians made to one another 50 years ago. That promise – that no matter who you are, you deserve to be taken care of when you’re sick – is more important than ever. To stop this disease, and to protect those most vulnerable, anyone who needs care must get it. By ensuring that we have a strong, public system, we can do just that. When we start introducing private systems, and stripping our public system of resources, those who need the care won’t get it, and we will all be sicker for it.
This is not just an attack on our medical system, our battle against the virus or our sense of fairness. This is an attack on our fundamental Canadian values, and it cannot stand. I promise you that as long as I am privileged to hold this position, I will fight every day to keep our public health system strong and universal, and I will fight back against these efforts to introduce American-style, pay-for-care schemes in this province.
As always, should there be anything that my office can help with, please do not hesitate to reach out to Lethbridge.firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-329-4644.
Shannon Phillips is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge West. Her column appears monthly.