Waiting for care – the lineup just gets longer

Do we really want a public health system if care is not accessible?

For too many, it’s not.

Just last week about 4,000 additional Nova Scotians lost their doctors, joining the swelling ranks (of now more than 135,000) without a family physician.

A private clinic also opened in Halifax last week, providing access to nurse practitioners for primary care.  A monthly fee gets patients through the door. Additional fees are charged for various services, including medical refills and prenatal care.

We watched from the CrowsNest as these stories played out in the usual Canadian fashion.  That is, the critics said the principles of Medicare – accessibility, portability, no direct fees, etc. – are sacrosanct. Fee-based medicine, they say, will only deliver us down the hellhole of two-tiered care.  

On the other hand, the public system was built for the 1980s, when the Canada Health Act was proclaimed.  That health care model – now crumbling before our eyes – was based on doctors taking on large patient loads by spending little time with each patient and less time with their families.   

Society has changed.  We expect more from the delivery of a service and those providing the service expect more from their chosen vocation and their personal lives. How can we continue to defend a public model of health that fails to meet the needs of either care providers or patients?

Kudos to former New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord, who offered a grownup perspective on these issues last week in a speech to the Canadian Club. For starters, he pointed out the private sector already plays a big role in health care, delivering 30 per cent of services in Canada.   

Lord spoke of the need to have a system that puts the needs of patients and providers ahead of ideologies.  The primary focus should be making quality services available and accessible. “How” those services are provided is secondary.

Sounds like common sense up here in the CrowsNest, even if it is too uncommonly expressed in this country.