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Health care system imploding while governments fight over paying the bills

Ron Walter looks at the issues facing our health care system
BizWorld_withRonWalter
Bizworld by Ron Walter

Our health care system, according to some sector observers and some public members, is crumbling.

Too many people can’t find a doctor. When they do get diagnosed they wait longer than they should for surgery. Emergency rooms are overcrowded with an 80 per cent increase in patients.

Nurses, exhausted and worn out by the pandemic and a new onslaught of patients with severe infant influenza and continued Covid cases, are retiring early or leaving public health creating short-staffed hospitals.

One would expect a health care crisis such as this would see governments at the provincial and federal levels working together to fix the system.
Not so, unfortunately.

A recent meeting of provincial health ministers and the federal health minister ended in chaos. “No progress,” said federal Health Minister Jean Yves Duclos, who had agreed to consider some private health services to resolve the health crisis. He noted private services compete with the public for staff.

The provincial ministers didn’t want to talk with Duclos. They want a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Given that seven of the 10 provinces have Conservative governments and three Prairie premiers are always fighting with Ottawa, the meeting with Trudeau would turn into a behind the woodshed paddling.

Solving the issues in our $332 billion annual health care system seems a secondary objective.

Canada has fewer acute care beds, fewer emergency rooms and fewer doctors per capita than any of the G7 nations, yet Canada spends the second highest percentage of GDP (12.9 per cent) of any. Only the U.S. at 18.8 per cent exceeds Canada.

Something is drastically wrong with this picture.

The provinces want the federal government to pay a larger share for health care. Heath care, by the constitution, is a provincial responsibility. The feds want more say on spending.

Throwing more cash at the system hasn’t worked in the past and will be less effective now that the whole world experiences staff shortages.

One observer suggested the provinces hounding Ottawa for more money is like the young person recently entering the work force and seeking to continue receiving an allowance from the parents.

Years ago, Canadian taxpayers filed one tax to the federal government. Amid the eternal wrangling over federal funding the feds said: Fine if you want more cash here is a percentage of the take. If you want more raise YOUR OWN TAX rates.

In this era provincial governments still pester Ottawa for cash.

Alberta has the lowest personal and corporate taxes in Canada. Saskatchewan’s personal income tax is comparable with only five per cent for small business.

Expect some day Ottawa to say: if you want more money raise your own taxes.

While governments fight over who pays the bill the system is sinking into quagmire, recalling when Roman Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

Ron Walter can be reached at ronjoy@sasktel.net

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

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