Tuesday August 21, 2007
Watch out for new CMA boss
By BILL TIELEMAN
The public has tasted private health care - and they like it.
Charge! The Canadian Medical Association has declared war on our public health-care system.
And tomorrow, Canada's doctors install as their commander-in-chief the most radical and outspoken health-care privatization advocate in the country.
Dr. Brian Day becomes president of the CMA weeks after the organization representing Canada's physicians said its members should be able to work simultaneously in both the public and private health-care sectors.
That position is so extreme even Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejects it. Last year in a letter to then-Alberta premier Ralph Klein, Harper warned the province to back off the same approach the CMA now favours. And rightly so.
"Dual practice creates conflict of interest for physicians as there would be a financial incentive for them to stream patients into the private portion of their practice," Harper wrote on March 31, 2006. "Furthermore, dual practice legitimizes queue-jumping as it provides an approved mechanism for patients to pay to seek treatment at the front of the line."
But don't expect Day, owner of the controversial private Cambie Surgery Centre, to worry - he has previously argued to "repeal the Canada Health Act" that protects the public system.
And Day has described Medicare, our public health system, as a "Berlin Wall" blocking patients from treatment, and like "Aeroflot" - the former Soviet Union airline.
Fortunately, some doctors disagree.
"As CMA members and physicians, we need to ask our association why, if some physician resources are being underutilized, isn't the CMA advocating for solutions that would increase patient care to all Canadians, on the basis of need, within the public system?" asks Dr. Danielle Martin, chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.
And a British organization called the National Health System Consultants' Association wrote to Day last week warning him not to make the same mistakes that England has.
"In closing, we must conclude that neither payment by results, the increased use of the private sector nor the 'patient choice' agenda have proved their worth. On the contrary, they have resulted in a destabilized and damaged public service", Drs. Jacky Davis and Peter Fisher concluded.
Ironically, Canada's doctors chose Day despite the fact that until elected, he had never attended a CMA convention or been involved with the B.C. Medical Association.
Now the radical outsider is in charge and the CMA is pushing for the public to get much more than just a "taste" of health-care privatization. If successful, it will be a bitter one.