Can we improve health care for all with only the empty public purse?
Ed. note: Dr. Alykhan Abdulla’s recent article describing a day in the life of a family physician drew much reader attention. In this piece, he questions the knee-jerk reactions to any discussion of privatization after Ontario’s announcement that it would increase publicly funded surgeries at private clinics to ease pressure on the health-care system.
I run a private medical clinic in Manotick Ont. I pay rent. I pay staff wages. I pay for medical supplies. I pay for my computers. I pay if the toilet is plugged. And so on. Other than the fact that we accept all OHIP patients, there is nothing that is paid for under the public purse in my medical clinic.
Some of my medical colleagues operate private X-ray facilities, private community specialists’ clinics, private outpatient surgical clinics or private outpatient colonoscopy clinics. These are all “privatized” clinics run as businesses paid for by doctors billing the OHIP system. They all take OHIP. They all treat patients with respect. They all follow rules of egalitarian socialized public health care. This has not caused pandemonium.
In addition, most pharmacies are “privatized” clinics run in a similar fashion. There is an urgent care centre in Ottawa that accepts OHIP. There are community laboratory services that are private businesses accepting OHIP. All walk-in clinics accept OHIP. Optometrists accept OHIP diabetic patients and those over 65 years old in privatized clinics. Do we fear any of these private companies as the slippery slope of two-tiered medicine?
Sorry to share this but hospitals accept a tremendous amount of private money from lotteries, donations and wealthy families putting their names on buildings. This does not make any hospital exclusive from public access. Hospitals need to rent space to Tim Horton’s or Starbucks or Shopper’s Drug Mart to pay for their staff or renovations or whatever. These are private businesses that subsidize our inability to sustain health care.
So here is the wicked question:
How do we improve health care for all with only the empty public purse?
We can raise taxes (by a lot). We can continue to ration health care (so that everyone equally gets substandard care). We can keep closing emergency department and operating rooms, and spending countless hours on social media fighting about public health care.