Tag Archives: privatization

Private Care Can Cure Public Woes

By Jason Menard

Not to slaughter any sacred Canadian cows here, but perhaps it’s time to take a good, hard look at Private Health Care in this country. And there’s a good chance we’ll find that, rather than being a disease that threatens to kill off our socialized medical system, it may actually end up being part of the system’s cure.

Wow, did that ever feel good. I mean, as a good, solid Canadian, I think I was born with the same ingrained notion that our socialized health care system was the be all and end all. As dedicated Canucks, we’re subconsciously sworn to protect the system against all corporate comers. Verily, with Tommy Douglas’ visage emblazoned on our shields and with a rallying cry of “Medicare” we traditionally go charging into the fray against the oncoming tide of private interests.

Yet, while we all have our hand at the hilt, ready for battle, we have been known to take the occasional furlough into the enemy’s territory. Whether it’s someone taking a trip south of the 49 th for a replacement hip or cancer treatment, or perhaps we’ve gone to a private clinic to take a pre-natal test to determine the health of our unborn child. We happily fork over our hard-earned cash for the privilege of doing so.

Heck, even the leader of Canada’s left-leaners, Jack Layton, has availed himself of the services of a private clinic for a hernia operation. But instead of being vilified, he should be lauded by those who need the private system the most. Because when Jack headed off to the private clinic, he took himself off the waiting list and bumped everyone else up one spot.

So maybe one guy spent one less day waiting to have the agony of a hernia relieved. Maybe the trickle down effect meant that someone else got to have an operation on a Friday afternoon instead of enduring yet another weekend with that torturous bulge.

And, considering the vehement hand-wringing about wait times in our country, it’s time to lay down our swords and negotiate a truce – for the good of all.

As it stands now, hospitals are working under a system where there are funding caps for various procedures. When the quota has been met, the operating rooms are shut down, or the beds are closed, or specialists are transitioned into a lesser role because the funding and facility is not there to support their ability to perform their chosen job.

In the end, the lines get longer while the facilities remain dark, until the next quota period starts up. These underused facilities represent an underutilized resource and a lost opportunity to earn welcome ancillary funds.

The only danger private health care poses to our system is if it runs outside of the existing health care system. If it is controlled and facilities are provided and administered through the hospital, then some of the funds that are earned from the charges for private procedures can be diverted back into the public system. Not only will those who choose to pay for their services be taking themselves out of the queue for the public system, the funds their procedures generate will be able to improve the quality and level of service available to those using the public system exclusively.

This does not create a two-tier system when it comes to access. In this country, when you go to a hospital you receive the required care, regardless of whether or not you have the means to pay for anything. However, for elective procedures, or those that require advance scheduling, people who choose to elect for private services are, in fact, only paying for quicker access to the services. This does not mean that people relying on the public system will ever be denied access to a procedure – it just means they’ll have to wait their turn.

We live in a system where doctors have to restrict patients to a specified time frame, or to only one issue per billable visit. Our medical system needs an infusion of cash to help it heal. However, few of us are willing to pay more in taxes. So where does that money come from?

The private system, if administered by our existing health care providers, offers an opportunity to pump money into the public system. As long as the priority is placed on public access and the administrators can balance that mandate with the potential provided by the private care opportunity, we can reap a benefit for all. Our social medical system is sick, but if we remain steadfast in our opposition to anything even with the hint of privatization, then we have only ourselves to blame when the patient dies.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

A Half-Million Dollar Hangover

By Jason Menard

The fact that Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara has summarily dismissed a recent report on the future of the LCBO isn’t so bad – what has Ontarians in need of a stiff drink right now is that we’re left picking up the $500,000 tab!

I admit, it’s been a while since I’ve bought a case of beer, but the price hasn’t gone up that much, has it?

Instead of drowning their sorrows, Ontarians should be up in arms at the decision to essentially shelve The Beverage Alcohol System Review and ignore its recommendations. I mean, I get frustrated when it rains after I water the garden, thinking that I’ve wasted my time – but it’s not like someone’s paying me $1,000 a day to do it.

If the concept of privatizing the LCBO is too stiff of a drink to swallow straight up, there are a number of sub-sections that are worth the government taking a look at.

The tourism sector was represented with the idea of loosening the regulations to allow Ontario resorts to offer all-inclusive packages. Now, not too many people will be forsaking Cuba for Cambridge, but having the option of offering all-inclusive packages, including booze, would certainly be attractive to our vacation hot spots like the Muskokas and Niagara Falls. The ancillary benefits are high for taxpayers, but the idea is sitting on a shelf somewhere – now aging like a fine wine.

The concerns of small brewers are being ignored. Micro-Breweries have expressed their frustration with the difficulty of competing with the big boys for shelf space on the racks of The Beer Store and the LCBO outlets. Opening up the process would have enabled local retailers to prominently feature local products. Quebec is a prime example in that their microbreweries enjoy equal – if not, at times, preferential – treatment in certain retailers!

But these ideas won’t even be examined. As the report states, the market is changing but we’re using a system that was put in place in the 1920s. Producers, bars, restaurants, and other vendors are surviving in spite of the system – not because of it. To not even entertain other opportunities and possibilities is unconscionable.

Our retail environment is changing. The mom-and-pop grocery stores are, in large part, a thing of the past. Big box stores and mega grocery centres are popping up left and right. As the report states, this marketplace will eventually mature – will the LCBO be left behind?

One of the great misconceptions out there is that the report is advocating a complete deregulation of the system. This isn’t going to be like Quebec, where every dépanneur on every corner has a cooler full of booze ready for the taking. The proposal suggests that a maximum of 10 licenses be issued to the highest bidders who would have the right to market and sell alcohol across the province!

Unless the owner of Jimmy’s Corner Store has a few million burning a hole in his pocket, there’s no way that they’re going to be able to compete with the big boys – and that’s a good thing in this case. It will be the Wal-Marts and the Loblaws of the province that will have the means and the ability to distribute booze in their aisles. And they’ll also be the best equipped to police the situation.

Publicly, no one will admit it, but privately everyone knows that buying alcohol underage in Quebec is as easy as falling – drunkenly – off a log. In fact, at some corner stores it seems the age of majority is a foreign concept. But, Ontario’s proposal would allow the large companies with the wherewithal to monitor sales to benefit from it.

And what do we, as taxpayers get, as benefits? Increased convenience, more competition, a chance at increased revenue, and, potentially, better regionalization. Referring back to Quebec, between the SAQ, grocery, and convenience stores, a nice bottle of wine or a six-pack is only a short hop away – usually with more convenient hours.

But if the provincial government doesn’t want to entertain the concept of a more open marketplace, then that’s their decision. If they choose to shelve the entire project, burn a half-million dollars, ignore any potential solutions, and disrespect the time and effort put in by the study’s authors, then that’s the true travesty.

And that nauseated feeling we all have right now comes from a hangover brought about by lost opportunity.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved