Opinion

LETTER: Health care debate must take place

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In response to the “Health Care Under Attack” letter (April 23) ­ — Kudos to Ms. McCallum Miller for lauding Tommy Douglas and his efforts to bring about Canada’s first universal medical care plan in 1962 Saskatchewan. But that letter would have disappointed Mr. Douglas. A great orator he was, but he backed up his arguments with facts.

There have been no total health care funding cuts in Canada or British Columbia. The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports that Canadian public sector health expenditures have more than doubled since the year 2000, increasing from $69 billion to $148 billion in 2013, albeit the rate of growth has slowed from around seven per cent a year to 2.5 per cent. The BC pattern is similar. The effect of the Health Accord itself was to slow the rate of growth and it is true that the demise of the Accord will likely put further downward pressure on the system. But whether it will lead to actual cuts in spending is unknown.

Public sector health spending in BC now consumes 41 per cent of all government expenditures, up from 35 per cent at the turn of the century. Growth in that number has come at the expense of other programs, such as education and social services, as will any further escalation.

Notwithstanding this growth in spending, tough choices on health care priorities have been made and will continue to be necessary. Our aging population, new treatment technologies and difficult geographical terrain create a critically challenging environment for those spending decisions. I understand the concern in Kaslo. As a retired rural resident, I am not too impressed with the state of health care services in the Kootenays either. But simply calling for further funding increases isn’t the answer.

British Columbians deserve a reasoned debate on the future of our health care system. About 50 per cent of our individual health expenditures already come directly out-of-pocket for services that are not publicly insured. Perhaps the legal challenge of Dr. Day will result in galvanizing our politicians for concrete action, one way or the other, on a properly regulated and fully integrated private sector. They have demonstrated they will not tackle the matter on their own. Tommy Douglas types can no longer be found.

 

Darrell Thomson

Harrop-Procter

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