The reemergence of the abortion debate is exposing rank hypocrisy right here in Canada. I’m talking about the fact that in this country, our leader rails against the idea of private health clinics, unless it’s for abortion in which case it is fine.
In more than 20 years of covering politics in this country, I have seen time and again that any politician who dares to look to the private sector to help deliver health services will be denounced for trying to destroy our public health system.
Abortion, though, gets a pass.
The closest medical clinic of any kind to Parliament Hill is the Morgentaler abortion clinic on Bank St. I’ve sat in the House of Commons and listened to Liberal and New Democrat MPs warn about the dangers of private health care, the dangers of electing Conservatives lest they allow the private sector in.
These same MPs defend the Morgentaler clinic in Ottawa, in Toronto, in St. John’s. They defend Clinic 554, a privately owned abortion clinic in Fredericton, N.B.
Last summer, the Trudeau government withheld funding to the New Brunswick government for refusing to fund this private abortion clinic. Just weeks later, they threatened to withhold funds from Saskatchewan for using private MRI clinics to help clear the backlog of diagnostic tests needed due to COVID-19.
Either private delivery of health services within the public system is acceptable, or it’s not.
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To say that it’s acceptable for abortion but not other services is absurd. But that’s what the current political establishment wants you to believe.
They want you to believe that the health system would fall apart if privately owned abortion clinics don’t get more money, but also that the health system will fall apart if the government contracts your knee or hip surgery to a privately owned clinic.
Since the advent of our single-payer health system, it has always been a mixture of public and private delivery and the fact is, the public is fine with that. The public doesn’t care about who the health care provider is, they just want to pay with their health card and not a credit card.
A recent report on rebuilding our health system by consulting firm Accenture asked Canadians what they thought of private companies providing care inside the public system. Across the country, 72% said they were either supportive or neutral on the issue.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed an awful lot of problems inside our public health system, including the inability to continue providing quick access to necessary care in a crisis. We have an incredible backlog of needed surgeries, diagnostics and treatments that Canadians are desperate for.
We should be looking for ways to harness the private sector, to leverage its ability to build and move quickly, to help clear this away. We should be looking at the best practices of public health systems like France, Britain and elsewhere where they already do this.
Using independent, and yes private, surgical centres that specialize in operations like knees, hips, cataracts, and other procedures easily moved out of the hospital setting, would make sense. We should be talking about this and moving quickly in that direction.
Instead, we’re told that any involvement of the private sector is a threat to our system.
Except for abortion.
It’s time to address the hypocrisy and start fixing the system.
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