Private health care won’t cut public health care’s wait-times

 In English, News

We’re lucky to have a public health care system and luckier still to have reporters like Andre Picard and Andrew Coyne to separate its myths from its realities.

This became clear last week when news broke that a judge on the BC Supreme Court had ruled against private health care.

The fact is, in his 880-page ruling Justice John Steeves didn’t.

The headline above Picard’s piece reads: “B.C. health care ruling reminds us that courts cannot improve medicare or fix wait times.” 

Two days later, Coyne’s comment came out under the headline: “The landmark Charter challenge over private health-care wasn’t about what you thought it was.” 

In reality Canada already has a mixed public and private health-care system. If you can afford it and don’t mind paying twice, that is to say, via your taxes and via fees to a private clinic, you can shorten your own wait time for some procedures, though not all. 

But our business model is based on a very different idea, that the best way to improve health care for everyone is not to make it easier to get private health care, but to make it easier to access public health care. After all, our public system does serve 100% of Canadians, so why not try to make it work better before abandoning it to private systems that serve so few of us?

We at Medical Confidence know first-hand that there’s lots of room for improvement. Our future growth is predicated on that single idea. I mean when just one company can reduce wait times by 220 days and disability duration by 6 months (with a 20% reduction in disability costs), you know there’s still plenty of fat and inefficiency to be cut. 

The B.C. action was brought by Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver. Ironically, its medical director, Dr. Brian Day, is the former head of the Canadian Medical Association, which represents Canada’s 86,000 doctors. Said Dr. Day, “people are literally suffering and dying on wait lists.” This is certainly true this year during COVID. 

As Dr. Roland Orfaly, told CTV News following the Supreme Court decision: “Just recently I had a day of surgeries where I had three patients… the first had waited 352 days, the next one had waited 463 days, and the last one waited 420 days. That’s just not acceptable.”

But as Andre Picard and Andrew Coyne imply, opening the doors to a wave of private clinics won’t reduce those wait times by a single day. 

What will is taking the system we have and making it work better. 

I have no delusions that this will be easy. But let’s at least start in the right place.

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