The other night, I had the opportunity to hear Roy Romanow of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada speak about health care reform, which included his assessment of the newly minted 2003 First Minister’s Accord. He addressed a mixed crowd of concerned citizens, health care professionals and students like myself. The common bond throughout the audience seemed to be concern about the future of Canada’s publicly funded health care system.
Speaking about the recent First Minister’s conference, Romanow offered the opinion that the Ministers were on the right track. Romanow thought that the meetings offered the First Ministers the chance to “demonstrate collective leadership to move forward together to restore Canadian’s confidence in their most cherished social program.” Romanow reiterated that Canadians are tired of inter-governmental bickering and debate over the sustainability of the system and want to know that the health care system will be there when their children, parents or even themselves need it. “Canadians,” he said, “want their elected leaders to stop fighting over Medicare and start working for Medicare.”
Romanow discussed the issue of privatization in the health care system. I hoped that he would provide new insight or some kind of solution to the privatization question. Instead, he reminded the audience that the privatization issue is not likely to disappear. According to Romanow, his report, Building on Values: The Future of Health Care in Canada, does not “preclude private sector involvement in our health care system in ancillary services,” and does not include “outlawing:” the private delivery of health services. The Canada Health Act doesn’t address privatization. This rang true with Romanow’s statement, “just because Canadians don’t like privatization, that doesn’t make it illegal.” On the positive side of the privatization debate, during the Commission on Health Care’s dialogue with Canadians, Romanow asked those parties who favoured privatization to present evidence to show how a for-profit system would be superior to the publicly funded system that Canadians currently rely on. The Commission found that “no hard evidence was presented.” Given that the system contains privately delivered services, Romanow stated that if Canadians are to accept privatization in the health system, there must be minimum conditions on privately offered services including that privatization of health services saves the system money, improves the efficiency of the system and is compatible with the terms of the Canada Health Act.
With his remark, “health care is a moral venture, not a business venture,” Romanow reiterated the opinion of Canadians, who during the discussion phase of the Commission, told Romanow that publicly funded health care is a “right of citizenship” and is “not tied to status or wealth.” Romanow noted that the 2003 Health Accord re-affirmed the First Minister’s commitment to the principles of the Canada Health Act and to the values of Canadians. While the Accord falls short in many areas, Romanow credited the First Ministers for acting quickly to start “taking preliminary steps on the path toward reform and accountability,” as only 75 days had passed from when Romanow’s report was tabled in the House of Commons to the 2003 First Minister’s Accord. Romanow quoted from the Accord, “our health system is sustainable and affordable and will be here for Canadians and their children in the future.” It seems that some kind of commitment exists by the First Ministers that will ensure that publicly funded health care remains an integral part of the make up of Canada.
Romanow urged Canadians to remain vigilant “to ensure that their elected leaders implement not only the sprit and letter of the Accord, but that they go further wherever necessary to refit the system for the 21st century.” I found Romanow’s comments regarding further actions Canadians could take to be lacking. It seems to me that interest groups like the Friends of Medicare, the Canadian Health Coalition and the Council of Canadians have been active and vigilant for a number of years. Through repeated public protests, letter and card campaigns and lobbying, these groups have worked to persuade our elected leaders to keep Medicare public and accessible to all. I wanted to ask Romanow what more Canadians could do to keep Medicare out of the hands of those who would profit from illness. Canadians have been public in their opposition of for-profit health care. Canadians have voiced their concerns to their elected leaders. I was hoping for new suggestions, but none were offered.
Romanow spoke passionately about the importance Canadians place on Medicare and the values it represents. It is up to every Canadian to ensure that Medicare remains a public right, not private enterprise. Urge your Member of Parliament and Provincial Premier to keep Medicare public. Just because the Romanow report on the Future of Health Care in Canada was tabled in the House of Commons, it doesn’t mean that government will do the right thing and fully implement it.
More information on Medicare is available at:
The Canadian Health Coalition: http://www.healthcoaliton.ca
The Friends of Medicare: http://www.friendsofmedicare.ab.ca
The Canadian Labour Congress: http://www.clc-ctc.ca
The Council of Canadians: http://www.canadians.org
Roy Romanow’s report, Building on Values: The Future of Health Care in Canada, can be found on Health Canada’s website at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca. On the main page, under Quick Links, click on Romanow Report. In your browser, type http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/care/romanow/index.html
The text of Romanow’s remarks at the University of Regina can be found at the Canadian Health Coalition website at:http://www.healthcoalition.ca/roy-feb13.pdf.
Romanow’s remarks will be broadcast on CPAC at a later date. Check http://www.cpac.ca/ for scheduling details.
Teresa is enrolled in the Bachelor of Professional Arts Program, Communications Studies, at Athabasca University and is enjoying returning to school after 18 years. Teresa enjoys writing, union activism and gardening, and lives and works in Regina, Saskatchewan, with her partner Kevin and son Adam.