Monday, February 28, 2011

A Canadian Doctor's Plea to Save Medicare

Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull is the President of the Canadian Medical Association, a man I greatly admire, and my kind of doctor.

He is a firm believer in public health care, an egalitarian who contends that every Canadian has the right to quality care, whether it’s one of the five million without a family doctor, one of the 30 waiting for a bed this day in The Ottawa Hospital, or one of the homeless living under the Laurier Bridge.

He wants doctors to get involved in the fight for poverty reduction and affordable housing. “I think we have to broaden our perspective a little bit,” he says, “and look at the social determinants of health.”

The greedy doctors hate him, the idealistic ones worship him.

So I wish all Canadians could have heard what he said today, about the future of our health system.

We can no longer tolerate leaving a system so large, so vital to the well-being of our citizens and to the success of our country, to manage itself without core information systems, indicators and measures of success; without modern governance, transparent accountability and visionary leadership; and, above all, without a clear and unwavering focus on the people the system is designed to serve - the patients.

The stirring call for the federal government  to take a leading role in making medicare better for all Canadians.

Canada's doctors think the best way to do this is to start with the fundamentals: that is the principles underlying medicare: universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability, and public administration. What we cherish about our system are the ideals embodied in these principles - the idea that the health care you get is the same whether you are rich or poor, or live in Whitehorse or Whitby.

The bold vision, the common sense, and above all the wonderful humanity.

I am also convinced that, if we are to live up to our country's values, we also need to look at the health of our citizens in a wider context. As CMA president, I've had the opportunity to meet with physicians in every part of the country, in communities large and small. One after another, they tell me of patients who struggle with poverty, hunger and lack of adequate housing, and who pay the price with their health.

The poor have greater rates of addiction, disability, mental illness, cancer and heart disease, and chronic illness such as diabetes. The poor get sicker than the rest of us, and they die sooner.

A voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Those who are seen but not heard...

The glory of this speech is its noble and very Canadian idealism. One that I share completely, totally, absolutely. As does my companion S√©bastien, who although he is not really political, practically dictated this post.

The tragedy is that Turnbull's words too will fall on deaf ears. Because Stephen Harper has no interest in reforming our public health system. He wants to privatize it. Or strangle it in its bed.

Which is why I agree with the good doctor.

When Canadians go to the polls, it will likely be their last opportunity to signal, through the ballot box, the focus they expect from federal politicians prior to the expiry of the Health Accord. As Canadians, we will need to choose wisely, as our vote will have an impact that will last far beyond the mandate of the next Parliament.

Why I believe that medicare should be a central issue in the next election campaign. Why I think we should ask Canadians how can they trust Stephen Harper to protect our health system, when he spent so many years trying to DESTROY it?

And of course, why I made this humble video...

I'm making a better one eh? The ending was too abrupt, and I should have added a poor senior sobbing in one of Stephen Harper's welfare hospitals. Because they are the ones who will suffer the most.

But the message will be the same. My heroes are healers, not killers.

Medicare IS Canada.

And those who would destroy it.

Must be DEFEATED...

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers.

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