To the editor,
In 1961, Saskatchewan, under Tommy Douglas’ CCF/NDP administration, had a health insurance system entitled the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act. Unfortunately, the province’s doctors weren’t thrilled with socialized medicine and many left the province for greener pastures.
It was just over 50 years ago that Canada obtained “universal medicare: under the Medical Care Act, sponsored by Allan MacEachern, Minister of National Health and Welfare at the time, he argued that all Canadians should have high-quality health services based on their needs and irrespective of their ability to pay. The Act came into effect in December 1966, with the federal government subsidizing medical care costs for those provinces with insurance plans.
In 1984, the Canada Health Act replaced the federal Hospital and Diagnostic Services Act and the Medical Services Act. The Federal Medical Care Act is still in place today to help ensure all eligible Canadian residents have access to insured health services.
Unfortunately, it now appears that each time the federal government rewrote its healthcare legislation, they also dumped a greater share of the actual costs of providing that services onto the provinces. And, it also appears that what started as an equal partnership in the funding of universal medicare ended with the provinces paying the lion’s share while the federal government continued to dictate its priorities.
As direct a result of the continual cutbacks made by the federal government in financing their share of universal medicare, the governments of British Columbia – since 1984 – have had to cut hospital budgets and medicare services to the bone, as well as increase health insurance premiums to their residents up until 2019.
Provincial face-saving formulas were created, like the one that limited the number of nurses on staff to the number of beds. Or was it the number of beds dictated the number of nurses that could be on staff.
However, it now appears that the NDP government of British Columbia has come up with a viable plan for addressing the backlog of more than 90,000 patients who were waitlisted for surgical procedures before the pandemic. There are also an additional 30,000 procedures that were postponed to make way for a wave of COVID-19 patients that so far has not swamped the hospitals.
It has been estimated that it will cost $250 million and take 17-24 months to complete those procedures that were postponed.
British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province will offer permanent full-time jobs to all existing, reinstated and graduating nurses this year. It will also need to recruit more surgeons, anesthetists and other healthcare professionals to meet their set targets. As well, the province will tap private clinics to maximize the number of day surgeries that can be completed outside hospitals.
But this is all dependent on avoiding a resurgence of COVID-19, said Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry.
Short of someone developing a vaccine that will actually treat the virus, continued self-isolation and social distancing are still important in preventing such a resurgence.
But, until such a vaccine is made available, why aren’t these measures being enforced to protect B.C.’s citizens?