Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 13, 2000
Church hosts pro-medicare meeting
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Amidst the horror stories of declining quality in patient care and losing our bright and talented pool of medical staff to foreign lands if the province's health system is privatized, the Rev. Bruce Miller offered a theological perspective.
"The whole issue has to do with values," said Miller, pastor at Robertson Wesley United Church. "Polls have indicated that health care is the number one issue for us as Canadians. Why we're upset is that we think changes are being made that are not in the best interest of people.
"Jesus practised an ethics and politics of compassion. . . . Open access was a distinguishing act of Jesus' patronage."
Miller was among a panel of speakers at a forum opposing Bill 11, which expands the role of private surgery facilities in Alberta. The bill is before legislature.
The minister calls the bill an end to quality health care "which has been part of our Canadian identity."
Rounding out the panel was Dr. Tom Noseworthy, chair of public health services at the University of Alberta faculty of medicine, Kent Harrold, chairman of Lamont Health Care Centre, Elisabeth Ballerman, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and Donna Wilson, nursing professor at the University of Alberta.
Moderating the forum at McDougall United Church was the Rev. Don Mayne, whose group, the Interfaith Coalition for Justice in the Workplace, hosted the event.
"In the early days, churches were at the forefront of health care," Mayne said. "Hospitals were largely the responsibility of the Church. Doctors and nurses were not paid very much for their services because people were poor. . . . But the healing services for men and women were there for all, no matter of the cost.
"When we see (health care) as something other than a caring service available for all, we need to ask 'What can we do?' We need to get involved."
Bill 11 would not only be detrimental to patients, but also to doctors and staff, said the panel of speakers. When the province began health care cuts five years ago, there was a flow of medical professionals out of the provinces, said Wilson. Money is flowing back into the medical coffers, she said, but the money is misguided.
"You may not like me for saying this but we need to stop dumping money into health care," Wilson said. "We are putting more money into the system without knowing where it's going."
Wilson noted there has been an estimated one-per-cent increase a year in health spending over the past four years in the province, but it has not resulted in a better medicare system. Nurses are working overtime and there are complaints of a shortage of nurses in the province.
"Chaos occurred because of cutbacks in '95," said Wilson. "Now chaos is reoccurring because of the money going back into the health care system to privatize.
"We're not solving any of the problems."
The problem, said the panel, is to maintain a quality health care system.
And Noseworthy said a good system is one which comes at an "affordable cost to a total society, not just to government costs."
He added what the government terms cost cutting is in fact cost shifting by putting public funds into the hands of private corporations.
For a more effective system truer to the definition of Canadian health care, Noseworthy suggested a stronger partnership between provincial and federal governments and expanding medicare services to include homecare and pharmaceuticals.
Noseworthy also sees the competitiveness of the pharmaceutical industry as an example of where hospital privatization will lead - to an expensive elite system of medical services.
"We pay more now for pharmaceutical than all medical services," Noseworthy said.
He added patients without insurance cannot afford to fill prescriptions. Privatization could lead to medical services for those with insurance plans or can afford it, hence leading to the much dreaded American health care system.