Friday, August 22, 2008

The following item is from the website of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), about recent statements about how the federal government is using public forums to denounce Vancouver's Insite safe injection site and also about how the past and present heads of the Canadian Medical Association are using their position to speak out against our medicare system, despite the wishes of many Canadian doctors..

CMA ignores evidence in privatization push:

The head of the Canadian Medical Association was right to criticize federal health minister Tony Clement for sidestepping the facts about safe injection sites for drug users.

But Dr. Brian Day is equally guilty of ignoring the evidence as he and his successor continue to push for more health care privatization.

Outgoing CMA president Day was indignant when Clement used his speech to the association’s recent annual meeting to question the ethics of doctors who support Vancouver’s safe injection site for drug users.

Responding to Clement, Day told the media the CMA had a position “based on scientific evidence.” If only the CMA leadership would pursue evidence-based policies and practices for health care delivery and funding.

Instead, Dr. Day and incoming president Dr. Robert Ouellet are aggressively promoting health care privatization, calling for more privately-delivered services and a funding formula that forces public hospitals to compete with each other.

Day couches his pursuit of public-private partnerships, private clinics and performance-based funding in the language of health care “transformation”, dismissing public health care defenders for their “tedious and tiresome propaganda.”

Newly-elected president Ouellet made it clear the privatization torch will pass seamlessly from Day. He told the media it was “time Canada accepted [the] reality” of private, for-profit delivery of health care.

Ouellet operates a string of Montreal-area private diagnostic clinics, including the country’s first private diagnostic clinic, which opened in 1987. Not surprisingly, he supported more privately-delivered care as recent president of the Quebec Medical Association.

CMA leadership is also promoting ‘patient-focused funding', a formula that paves the way for commercialization and competition. This funding formula, also known as ‘payment by results’, ‘activity-based funding’ and ‘volume-based funding’, is a ruse for privatization. In most countries where it’s been introduced, and certainly in Canada, it comes with competition and commercialization, forcing hospitals to compete for patients and the public dollars they will bring with them.

Canadian Doctors for Medicare founding chair Dr. Danielle Martin says the formula will mean “lower quality, reduced accessibility, reduced efficiency and higher costs; particularly where it is linked to increase private for profit delivery.” Martin and other doctors went public before the CMA meeting, criticizing the organization’s prescription for privatization.

British doctors also have serious concerns about ‘payment by results’ (PBR) as it’s known in their country. In Britain, PBR has driven up administrative and overall costs, and increased hospital admission rates. The British Medical Association has said PBR leads to ‘fragmenting care into saleable bits on which profits can be made.’

At their recent annual meeting, BMA president Dr. Hamish Meldrum called on the Labour government to get rid of the market in health care. “Let’s stop pretending that healing the sick is like trading a commodity. Let’s stop diverting doctors’ energies into unholy bidding wars for jobs they already do,” said Meldrum, who attended the CMA meeting.

The BMA position is backed by a recent study finding patients are no better off in an national health care system that's riddled with competition.

The CMA strategy session on ‘transforming’ health care was hosted by Claude Castonguay, author of a report recommending sweeping privatization of Quebec health care.

But the CMA doesn’t speak for all doctors. In fact, many doctors want to protect and expand public health care, explicitly rejecting the CMA’s push to privatize.

On the eve of the CMA meeting Canadian Doctors for Medicare and their Quebec allies, Médecins québécois pour le régime public, released a declaration signed by prominent doctors.

The declaration says more privately-funded and delivered health care is a ‘deadly’ treatment based on the wrong diagnosis, debunking the myth that public health care is unsustainable.

With a federal election looming and the ongoing absenteeism of the Conservative (and previous Liberal) government when it comes to enforcing the Canada Health Act, CUPE will continue to mobilize members and work with its coalition partners to stop the spread of health care privatization.

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