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Council of Canadians supporters take to the streets in Vancouver to explain how for-profit private clinics hurt all of us

(Council of Canadians supporters outside the notorious for-profit cambie surgery centre in Vancouver)

This weekend, a group of Council of Canadians supporters set out to share flyers around Vancouver to raise awareness about the ‘Dr. Day case.’ This extremely important case at the BC Supreme Court is scheduled to begin this March (to see a list of what groups are demanding of the BC government please click here). While the outcome of the case is not certain, one thing that is clear is that it will be have huge repercussions for the future of both public health care in BC and the rest of Canada. 

(Council of Canadians National Health Care Campaigner, Michael Butler, delivers flyers to dr. day’s cambie surgery centre explaining how this -and other- private clinics hurt public health care)

Just around the corner from Vancouver General Hospital, where patients come in and are treated according to their need, the Cambie Surgical Clinic operates for the rich where patients are treated based on the their ability to pay. Not only that, but as the flyer we dropped off at the clinic below points out, Private Clinics: Increase Wait Times, Cost More, Reduce Safety & Quality, ‘Cherry Pick’, and Reduce Access To Care For Us.  What this case is really about is the greed of Dr. Day and his shareholders, who are trying to ruin our public health care system so they can make more money.  Make no mistake; this is what the case is about.

The remarkable thing about the group that went out this weekend was that none of them had gone around and spoken with people in their city about health care before.  In fact, many of us haven’t even spoken with our friends and family member, and that is part of issue.  Between the $5 billion the Harper government is cutting from health care in BC, the Dr. Day case, and creeping US style privatization, the biggest issue to combat is that people are often simple not aware of how our public health care system is being strategically and systematically eroded and destroyed.  What the people this weekend found out was that it is our stories of health care, which bind us and define us.  If we are going to protect, strengthen and expand our public health care it is essential we start talking with one another. 

Brigette DePape from the Pacific Regional Office shares some of her stories from the day.

“While flyering, I learnt more about the importance of this case on the ground for public health care providers and patients. While flyering near the Vancouver General Hospital, one woman who was a surgeon said in her experience she noticed the increase wait times with private health care.

Another person asked how Dr.Day is getting away with this? Why hasn’t he been sued? Our response is that he is indeed being taken to court now. The nurses also took the province to court around this issue in previous years.

One person asked shouldn’t people have the choice of whether they access public or private care? The response of our Health Care campaigner is that when a person chooses to use private healthcare it actually has implications for everyone. Choosing private health care is a catalyst for further privatization and a two-tier system.  This leads to a situation where wealthy people can afford care, while the rest of us without suffer the implications as the flyer points out.  It is a fundamental feature of our medicare that our health care is equitable and fair for all, that it must be based on need and not ability to pay. When you choose to go to a private clinic it may seem like this only effects you, but in reality it hurts your family, friends, and community who rely on a public health care system.

I noticed people nodding their heads immediately when I mentioned that the Dr.Day case is precedent setting for the province and how this opens the door for two tired U.S. style health care. This really seemed to resonate with people as a clear danger.

Some people asked what can we do? We can build public awareness by writing opeds and letters, we must continue to pressure the province and federal government to stand up for public health care. We can be ready to pack the court house with our supporters when the trial happens in the spring. We can continue to flyer our neighbourhoods and near health centres. Most importantly, we need to talk with each other and our stories.

Even though it was raining, it was actually really fun, and the light came from meeting wonderful people who care about good quality health care too. “

(Council of Canadians Campbell River Chapter activists play ‘Dr. Profits’ Wheel of Misfortune’)

It is stories like the one above that show that people really do care and value a public health system. Earlier in the week over 600 people came out to two health care town halls in Campbell River and Courtenay on Vancouver Island.  And, not long ago Kamloops brought in a numerous speakers to have information session on public health care. People all across BC are demanding that our governments stand up for public health care, both provincially and federally.  As one supporter said to me this weekend, “if we all spent one hour a week talking to our friends, family, and neighbours about what is happening to our public health care system we could make our demands a reality.”

-Michael Butler and Brigette DePape

(Maude Barlow addresses two packed public health care town halls in Cambpell River [above] and Courtenay [below], explaining now more than ever we need to protect, strengthen, and expand our public health care)

Further reading
Will the B.C. government stand up to Dr. Day and protect health care for everyone?
Council of Canadians demands Dr. Day be held accountable for overbilling
Dr. Day uses the Charter to challenge public health care