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  • Volume Eight, Number Five: July 2003


    Did you hear the Physicians call?

    Dr. Diane Forbes

    Just this past week in the Journal of the American Medical Association a group of more that 7000 American Physicians, which included two prior Surgeon Generals, wrote a contentious article.  Their call was included in a special communication to this prestigious magazine that helps to set the standards of practice in the United States of America.  What they stated was… that a single payer, national insurance plan was needed to provide less expensive, fairer and more efficient health care to the American Population.  They are proposing a US health care reform to create a system similar to those health care systems provided in Britain, France and here at home in Canada.

    The Physicians for a National Health Program wrote "In our [US] market-driven system, insurers and providers compete not so much by increasing quality or lowering costs, but by avoiding unprofitable patients and shifting costs back to patients or to other payers…This creates the paradox of a health care system based on avoiding the sick."

    And avoid them they do.  There are an estimated 41 million American’s who have no health insurance what so ever, more than the entire population of Canada.  And these citizens are concentrated in the minority groups, the less wealthy and the elderly. The US market-driven medical system contributes to a poor showing with regards to infant mortality and life expectancy because their health care system cannot provide basics such as prenatal care and immunization to all of its population. 

    In Canada we should value our publicly funded health care system, and polls show that we do.  The Canada Health Act ensures that every citizen here has access to basic and fundamental health care.  It may be true that we have to endure wait times for elective and non emergency surgery, but I know many persons who when faced with life threatening illness, be it trauma induced or a sudden diagnosis of cancer have received immediate care.  We provide access to every member of our society based on need, not on ability to pay.  And the care provided is effective.  

    It is true that we could benefit by making some aspects of our systems more efficient, For example reducing repeat testing by multiple practitioners. And we should make sure that there is an equivalent access to care across regions of Canada, either by moving patients or by providing care in regional settings.  There are other examples to be dredged up, but these shortcomings are outweighed by providing a broad spectrum of services to our least advantaged citizens. 

    Ensuring that the children of Canada are healthy reduces our health care costs in the long run because healthy children become more healthy adults than sick children do.  National immunization strategies protect those persons most likely to die from communicable diseases, the very young and the very old, and reduces the spread of these diseases.

    Lastly I don’t think that we should overlook the benefit to Canadians that is provided by the understanding that we live in a caring and healthy community.  The positive mental benefits that I receive from knowing that my fellow citizens will provide for me, should I ever be in a position that I cannot care for myself, gives me a sense of peace.  This in turn reduces my stress and again allows me to live as healthy a life as I can.

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