Building up our health sector

Building up our health sector is literally a matter of life and death.

It is therefore not surprising that good health, both physical and mental, ranks among the highest of our priorities. Without it, our quality of life can drop to its lowest level and life itself can become meaningless.

It is worth repeating that a healthy population is a prime contributor to a healthy, competitive and sustainable economy.

For those reasons, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the various requirements for building up our health sector and consolidating it in a sustainable and financially viable policy structure.

Among those requirements, universal medicare deserves a place of honour. This is not just the perfect mechanism for ensuring that everyone will receive their prescribed medication. The other rationale for establishing universal medicare is that it allows for the parallel creation of a system of state procurement that achieves economies of scale through the wholesale purchase of all categories of prescribed medication.

This results in significant savings for all parties, including the government.

But that ideal has a formidable opponent. The biggest obstacle to an effective and efficient medicare system is the financial and political power wielded by the pharmaceutical companies. Similarly, it is also important to step up efforts to isolate the medical profession, especially the doctors, from the groping and seductive charms of the pharmaceutical giants.

This is a matter of political and professional ethics.

Another gap in our health sector is the absence of dental and eye care services and products from our OHIP coverage. These are not just quality of life issues. They are essential aspects of the constitutionally guaranteed principle of equitable treatment for our poorest and most vulnerable persons.

That human rights angle brings us to the embarrassment of addressing the proverbial elephant in the health sector room: our criminal neglect of the medical needs of our Indigenous Peoples. In addition to their need for health services, there are also the related challenges of the geographic viability of access to those services and to healthy foods at reasonable prices.

And then there is the perennial challenge of arriving at a fair, equitable and negotiated settlement of doctors’ fees. Can we find a formula that balances the interests of our dual status as both patients and taxpayers?

Can we find a more intense and broad-based set of programs to enable us to maximize the services of foreign-trained medical personnel? Do we need to apply more pressure on our politicians for them to work on this challenge and to face up to any local vested interest groups that are defending their financial turf at our expense?

Equally challenging is the other political hot potato: an efficient system of medical records management that makes patients’ health history readily available to doctors, at a reasonable cost to taxpayers through the provincial government.

A greater financial challenge than that one is the goal of reducing wait times for specialist doctors’ attention. Regrettably, among the creative solutions that our medical providers and public health planners may suggest, the least objectionable option for them may be totally unacceptable to the public: we the people abhor the idea of a two-tiered system!

And yet we all want to lead healthy lives. We accept the value of preventative medicine in saving time and money. We recognize the special importance of mental health.

Building up our health sector is not really a financial or managerial challenge. The game changer is exercising the political will and the political skill. Who the cap fits, let them wear it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is that you?

While it is true that all these recommendations together cost a lot of money that the government does not have, one major solution is to establish phased implementation over time, so that the direct cost to consumers will gradually decrease until it becomes nil.