Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 11, 1999
CHAAA hears defence of medicare
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Efficiency does not always mean quality.
The growing talk of private hospitals could be steering the Canadian health care system towards that of its sister country to the south, said Michael Rachlis, a health consultant. Such a move would mean Canadian society itself could be molded into a little Americana, where health care seems reserved for the rich.
Such a system where social equality is oceans apart, would increase crime and produce an unhealthy and unproductive population, said Rachlis.
"Societies which are more equal are healthier," he said. "Public health care is . . . also more efficient."
Rachlis was one speaker at the Catholic Health Association of Alberta and Affiliates' convention, Sept 30-Oct. 1.
Others included Romeo Maione, international advocate for social justice issues, Ginette Rodger, president of the Canadian Nurses Association, and Father William Ryan, director of the Jesuit Project on Ethics and Politics.
The arguments supporting private hospitals are those of efficiency and economy. But Rachlis debates those reasons.
Rachlis said in fact publicly run hospitals in the U.S. are more efficient than private hospitals there because of lower administrative costs.
"U.S. hospitals are spending huge amounts of money processing paperwork," Rachlis said. "There's costs also for administrators who have been hired and their purpose is to refuse care to those who can't afford it. That's why the U.S. system costs more - because of this paperwork."
Benefits for Business
The public health care system also benefits the corporate sector, said Rachlis. Because there is already a public system that covers basic medical costs in Canada, employers can forgo that cost in their medical plan.
"This is something that's not well known, yet it's absolutely crucial to the competitive feature of our economy," Rachlis said. "
As a moral issue, public health care tightens the gap between the haves and have-nots, said Rachlis. It's a means of making everyone feel a part of the common population.
"The healthiest society is one where society feels more a part of the system," he said. "It's a more productive society."
Although medical technology has increased a hundredfold since the days of Romeo Maione's childhood in Ontario some 60 years ago, "socially it's gone downhill."
Maione spoke with anger of how the private hospital idea is working to undermine public health care.
And the ideology of privatization is built around idolatry of the mighty dollar. In the world of today, money does seem to make the world go round, said Maione. It also seems to be at the core of civil and international disputes.
Maione cites warfare in East Timor as a recent example on how economic interests has Canada favouring Indonesia. The Quebec nurses' strike and the Ontario's teachers' strike are examples of "employees of a bankrupt government."
With a debt surpassing $500 billion, the Canadian government has mismanaged its account, said Maione.
When it comes to health care, the big dollar sign is still the one holding the plug.
"The money supply is the blood of our society," Maione said. "Who controls the blood controls the society.
"Who has the power, makes the law. And who doesn't, the law tells them what to do. This is the kind of value that's sweeping the world. All the old values are put away. The value now is money."
Money and ethics
And this money, Maione said, has caused social and ethical concerns for the health industry.
"Our problem is abundance, but we don't know how to spread that amongst everyone," Maione said.
During the convention, CHAAA also elected new board members.
Elected for a three-year term were Sister Mary Lou Cranston, director of St. Joseph's Ethics Centre, Carl Roy, president of Caritas Health Group, and Eugene Rudyk of Vegreville.
Executive Director Kathy O'Neil has resigned after 10 years of service. A replacement has not yet been named.