Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 15, 2000
CCC opposes Alta. health reform
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Local Church representatives have taken their opposition to Bill 11 to a federal level.
The Canadian Council of Churches is the latest entry in the list of opponents to the proposed health care bill.
The council, which represents 19 denominations, included a discussion on Bill 11as part of its four-day governing board meeting, May 5 at Providence Renewal Centre.
The panel included St. Albert MLA Mary O'Neill, Donna Wilson, nursing professor at the University of Alberta, Kevin Taft, researcher at the Parkland Institute, and the Rev. Bruce Miller, a United Church pastor and member of the Interfaith Coalition for Justice in the Workplace.
Bill 11 would regulate and expand the role of private health facilities, allowing them to perform minor surgical procedures that are now only done in public hospitals. The bill is in third and final reading debate at the legislature.
The Alberta government says the bill is needed to reduce waiting lists and fill a regulatory void.
"This gives government legal authority to prohibit and control private hospitals in the province," said O'Neill, the lone supporter of the bill on the panel.
"This is not an authority which exists in the legislation right now. We could see the set up of private hospitals and there's nothing we can do about it because there's no legislation that prevents it."
Opponents argued the bill would open Canada to an American style two-tiered system and "would not help the people in poverty get better care," Miller said.
Among the growing list of downsides, the bill also has ethical repercussions, said Taft.
"Health care is not suited for the marketplace," he said. "It's hard to quantify.
"The idea of a marketplace is self-interest. Without self-interest, the marketplace cannot exist. The basic ethic of health care is service, placing the interest of others over your own."
Taft added that opening health care to the private sector would eventually "mark an increase of the market of self-interest in health care and a decline of community and service to others."
Concerns also arose that the bill would lead to privatization of other public services, such as education and police.
"It's something that's going to be more expensive, less efficient and more unfair," Taft said.
The council has sent a letter to federal Health Minister Allan Rock encouraging a broader discussion on Bill 11, said Rev, David Pfrimmer, a Lutheran from Waterloo, Ont., and head of the council's commission on justice and peace.
The letter encouraged Rock to preserve the health care system and to prevent a "further "erosion of a system based on (values) . . . that are at the heart of our Christian faith."
It also included a request for a meeting with Rock to discuss medicare concerns, particularly funding reductions.
Members of the council said the health care issue making waves in Alberta is of great concern to them, even though many of them live in central Ontario.
"Ontario is on this same wave," said Alemayehu Zenebe of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. "They're looking at ways to cut back. If Alberta goes through with it, it's something all the provinces will start looking at. It affects everyone in this country."
Zenebe will continue to look into the complexities of the bill, hoping to unravel more of the pros and cons.
"It doesn't look like a very good (bill)," he said. "If it was good, there wouldn't be so much anger around it."
During its gathering in the city, the council also sat in on the general meeting of the Edmonton and District Council of Churches.
It ended its meeting with members taking a tour of the inner city visiting Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, the Mustard Seed Street Church, the Edmonton Native Healing Centre and ending with supper at the Boyle Street Co-op.