Privatisation of health care?
The "new" Quebec Conservative Party, in the October 3 provincial election, proposed a two-tier health system for Quebec, private and public. The PCQ candidate in the Pontiac told local media he favours privatising the Shawville hospital and, presumably, other small rural facilities, like Wakefield's. He went from zero to third place in this riding, so privatisation was not an idle speculation. There are many voters who would accept, even welcome, a private alternative -- yes, from Quebec's very efficient public system, even as it suffers from terrible over-bureaucratization.
Is this just frustration reaching out for any alternative, no matter how ill-advised. Plus pro-privatisation propaganda from Ontario and the US.
Yes, our health care remains in crisis and eats a significant portion of our province's budget. Plenty of problems, but we ought not ignore the positive reports and praise from those who've been served within our public system. The privatisation argument is that if some can afford to pay for their own care, why not let them do so?
If only life were so simple! "Letting them do it themselves" actually means dismantling what still remains of our world-admired health care delivery. "Letting the wealthy buy their own" already exists -- anyone can fly to the USA for care at world-class prices. Why not leave it at that, and just keep improving the system that serves all of us more-or-less well? We'd prefer Mexico's healthcare, or Turkey's? Brazil's? Russia's? No, overall, our system is working almost as well as anyone could expect. Huge problems of bureaucracy impede it, while private facilities are already syphoning off our nurses and technicians.
Health care is not the same as providing new cars. Or groceries. Healthcare deals with human beings, complex, full of complaints, fears, grandiose wishes and outrageous expectations. Serving the public in such intimate, life-and-death ways is bound to be filled with problems and shortfalls. Healthcare is not a one-time consumer purchase -- given the frailties of human beings, follow-up care is needed, there are new treatments and insights ....don't we expect that a hernia might be problematic than buying a car? I have heard much more praise than complaint about our doctors, nurses and hospitals. Improvements are always possible, shocking stumbles (like racism) often likely.
There is a darker side to privatisation -- corporate insistence that big companies can deliver health outcomes better and faster than the public system (no cost comparisons). There is profit to be made from health care. Just look south of the border. They insist we're denying capitalism (our unofficial religion) a very lucrative profit centre.
Critics even within privatized systems point out that corporations actually fail in significant areas of care delivery. Research, for example. Research goes well, if Wall Street investors can make big profits from a remedy or treatment. But if they can't, those diseases remain untreated -- Big Pharma refuses to seriously research today's growing drug-resistance in antibiotics, for example. There's no money in it! Privatisation condones this.
Privatized health also creates whole zones of untreated diseases (poor people) and vast pools of infection which inevitably will evolve further and spread to "healthy" areas.
The corporations also want us to fund the public system alongside their private cash-cow -- so we, the public, can research and pay for the problems the private system refuses to treat, leaving them only "profit centres". Obviously, considering the public as stupid goes along with selling privatisation.
Yet Canadians understand that our taxes go to help everyone and not just to provide an escape valve for the wealthy who can fly away for treatments. And corporate profit is actually a form of taxation -- where do profits come from? Our wallets. We'd be paying tax twice with privatisation.
Privatization also fractures a society, enlarges existing economic and geographical divisions, pitting groups, classes and regions against each other. Rural areas, small towns, remote villages? Sorry ... fly to Toronto. Privatization rests entirely on a law-of-the-jungle mentality, re-enforcing corporate sanctification of "individualism" over family and community. "Free enterprise" is not free at all, it rests on a "Buyer Beware" policy, and encourages corruption and bribery, preying on the unwell, the elderly and incapacitated.
I dare add that all -- almost all -- corporate innovations and discoveries rest ultimately upon funding from the community, from tax breaks and incentives, government and foundations' aid.
Many things can look good at a distance, but turn down the steady propaganda ... the so-called advantages of letting corporations make money off our health and well-being is a recipe for division, suffering, and increased poverty. Why would we want any privatisation at all?
Log Cabin Chronicles