Last week I attended the final stop of a national town hall series hosted by the Canadian Medical Association and the Globe and Mail in Halifax. The events, which were also held in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, have been billed as consultations on how to find the “right balance of public and private health care” to fix our strained health care system. But as I listened to the panels in Halifax, it was obvious from the opening session that the conversations were a ruse for promoting privatization, dressed up as “innovation.”
The speakers’ list was dominated by those who supported private, for-profit health care, including a spokesperson for Maple, the Loblaws-backed virtual tele-health corporation. Speakers, tellingly, referred to patients as consumers. And the event hosts polled the audience with leading questions that were set up for people to indicate how much the current system was failing them as individuals, rather than to garner a real understanding of how health care service could be improved.
The good news is, despite the pro-private, for-profit bent of the organizers, several speakers had excellent examples of the public system using innovative approaches, and based on the questions and comments from the crowd, the audience was overall in favour of maintaining a public health care system.
On the final panel of the afternoon, Dr. Leisha Hawker from the North End Community Health Clinic spoke about how their clinic works with the social determinants of health in mind. Dr. Hawker said this patient-centric approach really allows for equitable access and a continuity of care that every patient – and ultimately the whole system – needs. Both she and Sharon Davis-Murdoch of the Health Association of African Canadians emphasized the lack of current research and data collection on these approaches, which means that their successes are not being captured or replicated.
To bust some myths about health care privatization and build support for expanding public health care to include pharmacare, we worked with the Nova Scotia Health Coalition and the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour to pass out informational leaflets prior to the event. You can read the media release here, and see coverage from our picket here.