As a result of inadequate funding from provincial and federal governments rural remote areas of Canada have witnessed a drastic reduction in health services over the past fifteen years. This has meant a loss of acute care beds, reduced accessibility, and scheduled closures of primary health care services.
Movement toward the privatization of health services is creating a two tiered system where only those with money will be able to access the best health care. Instead of reducing costs, this system will raise the average cost of health care for all Canadians.
People on disability and seniors are the most at risk from recent changes. With the reduction in home support, home nursing and community services, the provincial government expects those on fixed pensions to pay for private sector services out of their own pocket to keep them living comfortably and safely in their own homes. So what should be done?
Provincial Ministries of Health should stop hiding behind the myth of unsustainability and honour their obligation under the five principles of the Canada Health Act including equal access to health care for all citizens. Healthcare is sustainable.
The Federal Minister of Health needs to honour and uphold the Canada Health Act by accepting its responsibility to provide health care funding.
The provincial Ministers of Health must address the problem of doctor shortages in rural remote communities by offering extra incentives, paid for through public funding. Communities should not have to compete with each other to attract doctors as they are presently forced to do.
Medical students wanting to practice in rural areas should receive enhanced training, so that they are highly and broadly skilled for a practice in rural remote communities.
Provincial health authorities should be listening to the people in their care and respect their needs.
And our federal government needs to stay at the health care table, negotiating with all provincial health ministers to establish a new Canada Health Accord that will provide adequate funding aimed at improving health care for all Canadians.
Our health care system is sustainable. We need the political will to ensure it stays this way.
The federal NDP under the leadership of Health critic Libby Davies, has undertaken consultations across the country on the future of public health care. As our Leader Tom Mulcair stated, “Canadians are concerned about our health care system and they want it to be a priority for their government too.” We will be using the input of Canadians to build our proposals for the 2015 election, a very important step towards building a stronger and fairer Canada.
Alex Atamanenko, MP
BC Southern Interior