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The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Two    April 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca


    You’re doing what with my tax dollars?

    Dr. Diane Forbes

    Generally I don’t mind to pay my taxes. I like to believe that taxes are a good system for providing services fairly to all the people who make up my community, both regionally and nationally. They help to pay for schools, that can educate all of our children. And although I can think of lots of “stuff” that I would like to spend my tax dollars on, if I didn’t have to send them away, I know that providing housing to low income Canadians is a matter of life and death in this wintry country.

    I also like to believe that my tax dollars are going to providing care facilities for maintaining the health of my friends, neighbors and community members. So imagine my surprise when I saw that the Provincial Health Services Authority, Office of Business Development has tendered for MBA’s to identify “POTENTIAL …commercialization of medical/surgical services:” in such areas as Pediatric neuro-surgery, to be aimed and marketed to predominantly international patients!

    Now hold on a minute. The Government of British Columbia web site for the Provincial Health Services Authority says that it’s role is to oversee “the coordination and delivery of provincial programs and highly specialized health care services.” These “highly specialized services include resource-intensive services, such as heart surgery, transplants and treatment of severe burns, which cannot be delivered in every community” in BC.

    These include the BC Cancer Agency, the BC Provincial Renal Agency, the BC Transplant Society, the BC Drug & Poison Information Centre, the BC Centre for Disease Control, Children's and Women's Health Centre, Riverview Hospital, and Forensic Psychiatric Services. You should know that these “Provincial programs and highly specialized services account for about a third of the province's spending on hospital care.” (http://www.healthservices.gov.bc.ca/socsec/authority.html)

    These sound like pretty important functions to me. “Under the previous governance structure, a small number of health authorities were responsible for these services, making it difficult to effectively plan or coordinate equitable delivery to all British Columbians.”

    If delivery of these services can pose a problem, why exactly is the provincial government looking for areas of excess capacity that may exist so that they can use facilities paid for with our tax dollars, for the purpose of maintaining our health, in order to provide what can only be private services to an international clientele? Not only that, but they are interested to find out what additional capital investment and managerial structure may be needed in order to provide these services. Which means spending more of our tax dollars for no additional care for us!

    Don’t forget. This means that our current government is considering using our tax dollars to put privately paying patients into publicly funded care settings, not citizens of our province who may need highly specialized services. This will not only use resources that could be possibly be employed to relieve the burdens of demand for health services in other areas (say for example wait lists), but it will also use up tremendous amounts of specialized physician time, whose training, if the MD was trained in Canada, we also heavily subsidized through our taxes!

    So I say let the Liberal Government know: forget it. They are aware that there are potential political implications to such a plan. They particularly want the MBA’s to investigate how the general public, among others, will perceive this. I take it with anger, and disappointment. I expect that any excess capacity be offered to other Canadians, who also contribute to our public services, or that these excesses be eliminated from the global budgets and reallocated into other social programs, or return the provision of these services to the smaller health authorities, so maybe people can get care closer to home.

    I think that anyone who feels like I do should ask their MLA about this plan (The Provincial Health Services Authority Project). If our representatives are socially responsible to their constituents, then they should also have some questions about this tender.

    There is an election coming, and the government is advertising about how much they are spending on our health care system. My question is what are they intending to spend all that money on, and how does it help the taxpaying citizen. These are questions we all should be asking, particularly of a government so interested in private-public partnerships (P3’s). Does this count as a P3, and if so how exactly does it benefit us? I’d like to know before I cast a vote for who gets to spend my tax dollars.

    On a final note, you might want to check out http://www.costshift.ca/ to find out how you have faired in the wake of the increase in health care premiums among the other taxes that you pay.

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