Canadian Doctors Edge Away from Support for Socialized Medicine
An advocate for increased private health care in Canada was voted president elect for 2007 Tuesday by delegates to the Canadian Medical Association’s annual meeting, surviving a last-minute nomination from the floor for a staunch supporter of medicare.U.S. liberals and leftists like to think that this nation is “behind the times” since we have no system of socialized medicine.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Day, owner of a private surgery clinic in Vancouver, was the nominee chosen by ballot in British Columbia, province sponsoring the CMA’s next president-elect.
In an unusual move, Vancouver physician Dr. Jack Burak, a strong supporter of public care, was nominated from the floor on Monday. A provincial choice is usually approved by acclamation, and has been challenged only three times in the CMA’s 140-year history.
Burak told The Canadian Press in an interview Monday that he was asked to run by doctors from across Canada who were concerned that Day’s election would be sending the wrong message to Canadians.
His defeat in Tuesday’s vote could be perceived as another move away from the CMA’s longstanding support of public health care. At last year’s annual meeting, outgoing president Albert Schumacher expressed support for private medical schools and private health insurance, while delegates voted to endorse more private sector involvement.
As owner of a private clinic, Day’s nomination has made him a lightning rod for criticism from supporters of public health care.
In a press release, Danny Cavanagh, president of CUPE Nova Scotia, positioned the election as a showdown “between a candidate who has become known as ‘Doctor Profit’ and one who believes in protecting our cherished Medicare system.”
CUPE is Canada’s largest health care union.
Day has insisted that he does not support privatization of health care in Canada. But he has said that there is a role for the private sector to play and that there is a place for more partnerships between private and public health care.
Critics of Canada’s medicare system, which include Day, have said that a dual system where well-off Canadians could pay to get faster treatment would help reduce the bottle neck and pare down waiting lists.
Wait times for medical procedures in Canada have steadily increased since the mid-1990s, when federal and provincial governments began trimming spending to balance budgets.
A standards system for wait times gained support after last year’s Supreme Court ruling that Quebec’s ban on private insurance violated Quebec’s human rights legislation.
Governments have agreed to institute wait-time standards for five key areas: cancer care, cardiac care, diagnostic imaging, cataract surgery and joint replacement. So far, they have not been able to agree on how to do that.
In reality, it’s places like Canada that are behind the times. Their rigid, centralized and bureaucratic system is increasingly seen as unable to provide the health care that an advanced industrial nation deserves.
As in the case of education in the U.S., where the forces of the status quo are firmly entrenched, change will be slow. But the direction is clear.