Need Not Greed: Taking action on the Romanow Report
On two bitter days in December, Deena Apel and I traveled to Ottawa to attend a "teach- and lobby-in" sponsored by the Canadian Health Coalition on the Future of Canada's Health Care. The objective was to tell us how the Romanow Report was viewed by this broad-based coalition (nurses, doctors, researchers, labour unions, anti-poverty groups and community activists) and to help organize the passage of the Report into law. What follows is a short summary of some of the key points. (Details are available in the BCAM office.)
- While the Report is not perfect, it is the best we can hope for at present. Solidarity is needed now so the report can be passed in toto, and as quickly as possible. Recommendations in the area of pharmacare, home care, ancillary services, etc., will need to be augmented and this can be done at a later time. Because of the strong backlash against the Report, supporters should press for passing it as it stands without cherry-picking amongst the Kirby and Mazankowsi Reports. The Senate Report, chaired by Kirby, recommends a public/private partnership but there is clearly a conflict of interest since Kirby sits on the Board of Directors of a private home care corporation. Picking and choosing from each report will only result in a watered-down system.
- We want a one tiered health care system that is Not-for-Profit. The alternative is Investor-Owned Private-for-Profit. Delegates were encouraged to avoid using the words 'public' and 'private' which obfuscate the real issues. Due to accessibility, quality of care and free trade issues the two approaches are incompatible. Public funding must be invested in a public not-for-profit system and not used to subsidize investor-owned facilities. A McMaster University medical researcher reported that death rates are 2% higher in facilities where rewarding shareholders replaces patient health as the bottom line.
- Provincial accountability is a sine qua non. The provinces must use the new infusion of health care funds to provide diagnostic, treatment and care services for all Canadians. Expenditures must be transparent. Examples were given of funds being spent on lawn mowers or subsidizing private clinics.
- In the face of denial there is enough money to cover the graduated costs of a restructured health care system. Surprisingly, both the Romanow and Kirby Reports agree on financing strategies while differing significantly on delivery mechanisms. The cupboard is not bare, according to one economist, who explained how Canada's $80 billion budget surplus has been manipulated over the past eight years. Deception regarding lack of money is a political tactic used to control and apportion spending on social programs.
- There was strong support for the formation of a National Health Council to oversee implementation of the report.
- Even though 93% of Canadians have expressed support for a publicly-funded medicare system, our political leaders are not overly enthusiastic. Hence it is up to each Canadian to make it happen. Citizens need to ride the wave of media interest by writing letters to the editor, Op Ed pieces, articles for local newspapers, personal interest stories, etc. Health Minister Ann McLellan needs to be encouraged, supported, and moved... as do our own Members of Parliament.
As NDP Health Critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis has said, "Romanow has touched the soul of Canada and given us all hope for the future of our health care system." It is now up to us to keep up the pressure and to see that the bill is passed. In my opinion, the Romanow vision and the Kyoto Accord are central to maintaining Canada's independence and moral integrity as a nation. Please get involved.