Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 11, 2002
Churches in fight for medicare
Christian voices team up to support public health care
By ART BABYCH
"I normally trust in God but now I'm trusting in Romanow."
- Sr. Nuala Kenny
But the churches say medicare is under siege. They include in a list of perceived "threats" to the health care system, the "failure" of the federal government to respond to the growth of "two-tier" health care in some provinces where pressure is strong to allow for-profit health care providers.
"Romanow identifies that Canadians are indeed worried about health care in this country," said roundtable moderator, the Rev. David Pfrimmer, chair of the CCC's commission on justice and peace.
"But it goes beyond that in some sense in that there is also concern whether or not they can have confidence in their political leaders to make it work." The churches and faith communities have "a pastoral responsibility to speak to that deep angst among the people," he added.
Neither Romanow nor Health Minister Anne McLellan turned out for the churches' roundtable but Dr. Robert McMurtry, Romanow's special advisor, addressed the gathering. He outlined the commission's work in coming up with proposals to reform health care and said "Getting this right is crucial to the future to the thing we know and love as Canada."
But whether the government will implement recommendations of the commission after it hands down its report was a concern for some of the participants.
Dr. Richard Haughian, president of the Catholic Health Association of Canada, received a "no" from McMurtry after asking if he could provide assurances that the report's recommendations would be acted upon. McMurtry noted the commission would cease to exist after it submits its report.
Other speakers questioned whether it is already too late to save medicare. Sister Nuala Kenny told McMurtry, "I normally trust in God but now I'm trusting in Romanow."
Kenny, who was one of two keynote speakers at the roundtable, is a leading Canadian pediatrician and founding director of the Office of Bioethics Education and Research at Dalhousie University.
Her remark brought a chuckle from Romanow later. "My advice is, everybody should still believe in God. I do," he said.
Kenny said primary health care, not primary doctor care, needs reform.
"When we think of why it is that we haven't been able to affect change in primary care, we have to ask whose interests are served by a system that is dominated by hospitals, doctors and technologies," she said. "Doctors don't share power and they don't deal with sharing the money either."
Kenny, former deputy minister of health for Nova Scotia, also said, "There are persons out there who do not like the choice of equity" in medicare. "They want us to privilege the wealthy. And they don't care about the others."
The state, not private companies, delivers health care more efficiently, she stated. "We not only believe it, but we can show you that the state does it more efficiently."
Michael Rachlis of Toronto, a private consultant on health policy issues, said the health delivery system is "lamentably out of date" and that the health care system has not been starved for funding.
"Many times we hear that there's not enough money and that we have to spend more or go private," he said. "I'm going to challenge that."
Emphasis needs to be placed on primary health care reforms, including childhood education, he said.
Up to 80 per cent of Canadians with high blood pressure do not have it controlled properly, Rachlis stated. "This means that while we continue to worry about access to MRI scans, . . . thousands of Canadians are dying every year from heart attacks and strokes that could have been prevented at the primary health care level."
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.