Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 10, 2000
WCR Letters to the Editor
Comments on Bill 11 distortedI wish to respond to comments by John Lynch of Edmonton's Social Justice Commission who says in your March 13 issue that Bill 11 may lead to a full private health care system in competition with medicare. This is the type of inaccuracy and distortion that harms informed public debate on the issue.
Bill 11 will protect our publicly funded and administered health care system by entrenching in law the single-payer system that currently exists and ensuring that no one will have to pay for insured health care services. It also incorporates government's commitment to the principles of the Canada Health Act. No other legislation in the country does this.
Bill 11 does not set up any new or two-tiered health system. The first line of the bill bans private hospitals from operating in Alberta in clear and distinct terms. It does offer health authorities the option, under tight conditions, to have small and specialized private facilities provide some minor surgery provided there is proven net benefit to the health system.
This is not two-tier health care, as Mr. Lynch suggests. All funds continue to be publicly administered. In fact, far from being a threat, the bill will actually bring all surgical clinics, including those in existence for years, under the control of the public health system.
Patients will not pay for insured services, they cannot pay or be charged for quicker service and all they continue to need is their Alberta health card. Where is the threat to the public health care?
Mr. Lynch's reported contention that the rich could pay for faster and better service is absolutely wrong, as stated in part 1, section 3 of the bill mailed to every Alberta household and available for individual inspection. There are stiff penalties for violating these rules.
Mr. Lynch is also being disingenuous in his comment that the bill "makes it very possible for owners of private for-profit clinics . . . to sell extra things." This suggests that no such thing happens now, whereas public hospitals have always offered patients the option of buying "enhanced goods or services" beyond what is covered by public health care.
A good example is the option of paying extra for a fibreglass cast for a broken leg rather than the standard plaster cast. I understand that hospitals owned by Catholic health organizations also offer these enhanced goods and services.
Bill 11, in fact, protects patients from being pressured into paying for extras by requiring anyone offering such services to provide verbal and written explanations of why upgrades are being offered, a clear outline of costs and it sets fines of up to $10,000 for facilities or doctors who fail to do so.
Mr. Lynch also concedes that the status quo is not good enough, while advocating for that very same status quo. He calls for increased funding and more staff while ignoring the fact that this has been happening for years.
Health care spending has increased by $1.5 billion since 1995-96 and will increase by another $1.1 billion in the next three years. Front-line staffing, the number of nurses and physician levels are also up and funds have been announced for further increases.
Bill 11 contains the strongest legislated protections in Canada for the publicly funded health system while offering health authorities more choice in finding the most efficient, cost-effective and beneficial delivery of health services.
Catholic groups have long been involved in the delivery of health care in this province and we would continue to welcome any positive, progressive ideas they may have.
Halvar C. Jonson
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.