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Ideology before care

February 17, 2017
Ideology before care

This text was published in Le Soleil

Quebecers are bombarded with information and press releases from both levels of government regarding federal funding for the health care system. On the one hand, Dr. Barrette, Quebec's Minister of Health, wants to protect the exclusive jurisdiction of our province in this matter - a legitimate objective - while extracting as much money as possible from the federal government. On the other hand, the federal government wants to require some accountability from the provinces that will spend its money.

In this battle, the two parties confront each other by accepting the same rules of the game, that is, the federal government has a role to play in a jurisdiction explicitly attributed to the provinces in the Canadian Constitution, and the Health system must remain, at all costs, fully funded publicly. In practical terms, this means that the Government of Quebec can continuously blame the lack of federal funding for the shortcomings of our health system without ever having to explain its structural weaknesses and provincial politicians can continue to promise us the moon without having to wear the odious rise in taxes. They have to continually shout, as Minister Barrette does, and ask the federal government to sign checks.

It is an unhealthy, vicious circle that perpetuates a health system that is aging poorly and that does not serve the interests of Quebeckers.

It is worth repeating: our public health system is not viable in the long term. Obviously we are going to hit a wall as health care spending approaches 50% of the total budget of the Quebec government. However, waiting lists persist and the waiting time for emergencies remains clinically high.

This is unacceptable in a developed country like ours. What Minister Barrette and the federal government propose is to put a diachylon on a broken leg. They continue to play the game, without questioning the solidity of an obsolete model that will soon be 50 years old. The logic of "ever more money" will one day force us to make sacrifices in other areas. What about education? And our infrastructure?

The time has come for Quebec to reopen the debate on the introduction of government/private health care mix. Quebec must exercise its constitutional rights and stop the federal government from dictating or imposing a dogmatic framework - also known as the Canada Health Act - that obviously leads to mediocrity.

It is the Quebec government that Quebeckers will hold responsible if the health care system continues its spiral of spending without results. No other OECD country severely restricts private participation in the provision of patient care and funding as Canada does. This monopoly results in enormous loss of efficiency and an inadequate health care service, creating an unsatisfactory experience for Quebec patients.

We are not talking here about replicating the American system, but rather drawing inspiration from pragmatic European models that respect the principle of universality, so valued by our politicians, while also incorporating private health care in the system. This health mix would have the effect of maximizing the contribution of the private sector while making investments in taxpayers' money more efficient.

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