Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 28, 2004
Speak out for health care SPIRITUS told
Fees become a tax on the poor, warns advocate
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Concerned about the future of public health care, the Alberta Catholic Health Corporation (ACHC) is calling on people to speak out now.
"There are many good things in relation to health care in Alberta. Once people get into the system, once they are admitted to long-term care or to acute care they get good care," notes Mary Pat Skene, a director with the ACHC and CEO of the Grey Nuns of Alberta.
"The worry that we have is that this system could be eroded into a system that starts using more private for-profit health care," she said in an interview. "And we are worried about accessibility. If people can pay for what they want, they'll get access immediately; what would that do to the quality (of care) for the people that have to wait because they can't afford to pay?"
Skene noted the principles of the Canada Health Act go against private for-profit health care, but she said that hasn't deterred some politicians and provincial premiers.
"This is a good moment to speak out," she said, pointing to the June 28 federal election and to the upcoming provincial election. "Unless the people speak out, this could change."
Skene spoke at the annual meeting of SPIRITUS at the Grey Nuns Regional Centre June 19. SPIRITUS is a grassroots Alberta Catholic organization that advocates and mobilizes on issues affecting faith and life.
In her presentation, Skene spoke on the values of Catholic health care and outlined the role and goals of the ACHC, an organization established by the Alberta bishops in 1976 to ensure Catholic management and operation of Catholic hospitals that religious orders give up.
She also called on SPIRITUS to speak out.
In the interview, Skene said she fears the public health care system could be eroded because the question always is: Is health care sustainable? "And so in order to make it sustainable will some decisions be made that aren't decisions we would make if we looked at it through the value spirit of Catholic health care?"
"We also have a big concern about fees for service or user fees because it really is a tax and it becomes a tax on the poor," she said.
"When somebody has to pay $10 when they go for a visit that becomes prohibitive and the people that suffer are not the ones that can pay but the ones that live on the margin. The working poor just can't afford it so then they don't come to the system and that's not what we see. We see a system that responds (to the health care needs) of everybody."
People need to be vigilant to the messages that federal and provincial candidates are delivering on health care, Skene said.
"Most of them are talking about putting more money into health care. And the point that we need to be cognizant of is what are they going to use that money for.
"I guess I would fear they would use the money to direct it more into the privatization of health care."