Re: Reforming health care means reforming illusions

Although we agree with Dr. Keith Martin, Member of Parliament from B.C., that Canadian health care needs to be improved, there is no evidence to support his assertion that more private competition is the best solution. In fact, Europe has produced much evidence to the contrary.

Governments in Canada spend less on health care than most European countries. Dr. Martin’s comment that Canada spends more on health care than the average European country, although true, is misleading because the private sector in Canada spends more on health care than in many European countries according to the OECD.

Dr. Martin glosses over debates raging in many European countries about the integration of private and public services. For example, in one of France’s national newspapers, three doctors recently pointed out that increased competition in the hospital sector has resulted in exorbitant extra-billing.

According to a French official equivalent to our auditor-general, the extra-billing has reached €2 billion ($3.3 billion) a year. Documents filed by the government of British Columbia during the court case with owners of private for-profit clinics reveal that extra-billing will also be part of Canada’s future if there is increased private-sector involvement in health care.

We all know that Canadian healthcare is far from perfect. Dr. Martin is right to push for change, but we strongly disagree with his prescription. The evidence in Canada, Europe and the United States shows that it is within the publicly funded not-for-profit health system that Canadians get the best value for money. Let’s stick with evidence-based solutions that will benefit all Canadians, not just those who can afford to pay.

Linda Silas, President, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, Kaaren Neufeld, President Canadian Nurses Association for Nurses for Medicare, and Dr. Danielle Martin, chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare

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