Private vs. Public Health Forum – Edmonton

This public forum was hosted by Donna M. Wilson, RN, PhD on March 14, 2018 in Edmonton. Sheryl McCumsey and Janine St. Jean attended this event on behalf of the Green Party of Alberta. Below is Sheryl’s opening and closing statements:

The Green Party is strongly in favor of maintaining a publicly funded government operated health care system. Private systems rely on making profits and consistently cost more. Major cost drivers are on the private side. For example, if we included a pharmacare program in our health system this would save Canadians $11.5 billion. The opposition being to this would be that it cut into pharma’s profits- we have to decide who we serve here- corporate interests or those of the general public.

The Green Party also sees the significance of preventive medicine. For example we see a need to enforce environmental policies to prevent contaminants in our environment which science indicates to be more and more compelling in their impacts to human health especially when looking at the rise of chronic diseases associated with them.

To include people in their own health care is not only empowering but trans formative. Our health systems need to include other basics services such as dental care and other health services which are not available to all Canadians and result in serious consequences.

We also believe that funding is needed to improve the dignity of end of life treatments as well as upgrading our mental health services.

Many savings can be made by looking to the front line workers and their recommendations rather than to those who have a vested interest in selling products that maybe unnecessary, harmful or perhaps not even needed.

The push to privatize health care comes from the belief that we are unable to handle the demands made on the public system. This does not deal with the problem but simply creates a new problem- one far more serious in that we move away from a democratic system and instead towards a two tiered system of health care. Look to any third world nation and the first areas that change the status of that nation is improvements to health care and education. Health Care for all Canadians is essential for the wellbeing of all and we should remind ourselves that we take many people in our world for granted who try to manage without good health care.

We do not just have an aging population we have one that is chronically ill. There are many stats to indicate this but one very compelling one is the fact that currently 20 million Canadians are diagnosed with some kind of gut related disease. This has increased from 10 million in just ten years. “Digestive disorders cost $18 billion (2000) annually in health care costs and lost productivity.”

As well, it is expected that nearly every second Canadian will develop cancer in their lifetime and colon cancer has the 2nd highest death rate of all cancers in Canada.

Please tell me this is not what we are eating.

Also, the OECD report for Canada says 26% of our adults are obese. Also, 26% of our children are struggling with weight issues. We have surrounded our children with messages from the junk food industry- in fact kids between 2 and 11 view more than 25 million food and drink ads on their favourite websites in one year.

School hallways and cafeterias fill any desire for junk food. Do we want to consider the wisdom in this?

When I looked to see who was researching the cause of IBD all I could find was pharma companies involved in treatment- who is looking at the cause?

We certainly over-prescribe drugs as well. One study showed a group of seniors who were regularly taking an average of nine drugs- half continued which the other half were advised to drop on average four of their drugs. The result of the study was those being on fewer drugs felt better and were healthier.

The use of antibiotics to enhance growth of livestock is mentioned by the WHO as being one of the main contributors to antibiotic resistance. We have become complacent in ways that have resulted in very serious consequences.

One of the current moves to privatization is the availability of MRI’s- when researched it was found that 13,000 lower back MRI’S conducted in Alberta annually are not necessary. Research at an acute knee injury clinic revealed that 2/3 of these patients who had an MRA could have been accurately diagnosed using other more readily available and significant less expensive techniques and tools. This translates to another 4,000 MRI’s. These two areas represented a cost exceeding $15 million of unnecessary MRI’s every year in Alberta. This is an issue around knowledge gaps and it would be better for all users if physicians were given training to properly diagnose these concerns without these expensive tests.

Other things to consider is how Medicine Hat has decided to address homelessness- this has certainly reduced much suffering at the cost of $18,000 a year to provide a home for a homeless person. Studies show that the reduction of days in jail alone pays for this program with studies that show taxpayers pay $120,000 a year in these services.

This is only the beginning of ways to look at savings in order to provide better care for Albertans. Preventative medicine is badly needed but is not in the interests of corporate profits- this is exactly why public health needs taxpayers support and we need to review how we view the quality of food and overuse of drugs- not to mention the value of considering how our environment has a profound and sustaining impact on our health.

Sheryl McCumsey – Environment and Ecosystem Health

This event was covered by the Edmonton Journal.

Comments 1

  • It is good to see the Green Party taking an independent stance. While medicine has done many wonderful things, it has also caused many problems due to the overuse of pharmaceuticals. The opioid crisis is a clear example of a massive epidemic that was caused by our medical system. All drugs come with a risk, and therefore should be used only when necessary. Doctors are not in a position to prescribe sanely when the majority of their information comes from pharmaceutical companies. This is not a left versus right issue, and a pharmacare programme that doesn’t take the damage that pharmaceuticals can cause into account (e.g. by providing truly independent information to MDs and patients) will cost a lot of money and not increase overall health.