LETTERS: Time to look at health care system’s strengths and weaknesses

Your editorial, “A cause for concern not a reason to panic”, on March 4, was timely and thoughtful.

While panic will serve no individuals or society well it is important for us to take an objective look at the strengths and weaknesses of our health system infrastructure which will soon be tested by yet another epidemic.

Since the mid-sixties Canada has developed a single payer public system for access to hospital and medical services in which the federal government originally contributed 50 per cent of the costs. Surely and steadily the federal contribution – drawing from the broadest and deepest tax revenues – has declined to about 20 per cent of costs, with more and more of the financial burden being off-loaded onto the provinces – with their narrower tax base and resources, particularly in the northern territories and Atlantic Canada, where hallway medicine is commonplace and local hospitals and emergency care centres have been closed.

Our single payer system has served us well but it has been increasingly under siege by for-profit interests who benefit from the systematic under-funding of our public health care system.

The contrast between the public health services in Canada and the for-profit United States is illuminated as one watches the Democratic party presidential debates about whether a single-payer health system and medicare for all is possible in their wealthy nation in which for-profit medicine and the obscene wealth of their associated health care industries trumps access to quality healthcare for all. Few Canadians would trade our system for that of the U.S. in which tens of millions of Americans are under-served or ignored – and many face financial ruin because of ballooning care costs and premiums!

Here in B.C. new hospitals and local, comprehensive urgent primary care centres have been initiated in the last two years but more must be done.

The inter-related housing and health care crises can only be solved when Ottawa begins to increasingly co-invest with the provinces in affordable housing – with its health benefits – and comprehensive health care for all including comprehensive services such as pharmacare, dental care and mental health services.

The independent Parliamentary Budget Office estimated in its June 20, 2019 study of international financial transactions that wealthy Canadian firms avoid paying at least $25 billion annually thanks to their use of foreign tax havens. Surely wealthy individuals and corporations who currently use foreign tax havens – and existing loopholes for the super-rich who can afford pricey tax consultants and lawyers – can join honest hardworking Canadians who pay their taxes for the quality health care and housing that are so desperately needed.

Ron Faris

Victoria

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