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Op-ed: What’s wrong with private clinics?

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

Equality is actually rather easy to achieve. It’s achieving both equality and quality that is the issue and something Canada has struggled with when it comes to health care.

On July 15, the B.C Court of Appeal dismissed Dr. Brian Day’s case, which argued that he had the right to set up a private for-profit surgery clinic due to long wait times in the public system.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) praised the court’s decision and described the case itself as “an attempt to fundamentally undermine healthcare equity in Canada.”

It also warned of an “American-style private healthcare” advocated by those who want to “profit off of sickness”.

Coming from a union, such rhetoric is not surprising, but it is still disappointing that the AUPE believes limiting Canadians’ right to choose their health-care provider is equitable.

Would allowing some private actors in health care help keep more doctors in Alberta as the UCP government scares them away?

Would it reduce the pressure on the current health-care system, saving taxpayer money and freeing up resources for the truly needy who can’t afford private services?

Would private health care be reserved for only the rich, or could charities and insurance allow poorer individuals to take advantage of this option too?

And if having private clinics would create a two-tiered system where the private option is far superior, does the fault actually lie with the public option and the politicians who manage it?

Such questions are at least worth considering when one looks at the current state of our emergency rooms—that is, those that haven’t closed already.

COVID has undoubtedly caused much of the recent strain on health care, but long wait times and bloated budgets have been long-standing issues.

For those with a pathological fear about becoming like those dastardly Yankees, consider that many Canadians travel to the States for medical treatment.

America also has some socialized medicine (Medicaid, Medicare, veterans hospitals), while Canada does make you pay for certain services—when I fractured a bone in my foot, for example, I had to pay for the Aircast boot, crutches and physiotherapy.

Lord knows the Americans have their issues with health care, but Canadians have an obligation to acknowledge their own health-care system’s shortcomings, which are quite often a real matter of life and death for many citizens.

Denying access to health-care options is not noble. Neither is having everyone suffer equally.

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