by Xavier Kataquapit
I grew up in my home community of Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast and there were a lot of challenges living in the far north. As a matter of fact there still are. We have had a hospital in place for a long time but never really had a local full time doctor or dentist. However, we have had a lot of great nurses and midwives over the years. Thankfully because we have had a good public health care system in place for so many decades remote Indigenous communities across the country have had the benefit of some degree of health care. I can only imagine the disaster it would have been for our Indigenous First Nations if a private health care system like the one in the United States would have been in place.
Today remote Indigenous communities have access to some form of health care and if there is a serious problem then people are flown out of the community to a full service hospital in the south. When a specialist is needed or critical checkups have to happen people are also flown out to first class hospitals in city centres to the south. At least we have some degree of health care that we certainly would not have if it were not for all those politicians, activists and fair-minded people that fought for our public health system.
For decades right wing governments have been eating away at funding for our public health care and that has caused many challenges in terms of services and staffing. Recently more and more private health care is creeping into our system and that is a result of constant lobbying by huge health care and health insurance corporations to our Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Parliament. How could anyone think that we should have a health care system similar to the unfair and private profiteering system in the United States is beyond me. Some say that it would be good to have a system where some services were offered by private health care services but that does not make sense. This move to incorporate private health care into our system only serves to further weaken our public health care by taking money out of it and providing it to corporations that are only interested in making big profits and satisfying their wealthy owners and board members. How does that make any sense?
According to the Commonwealth Fund, an institution that has been around for over a hundred years and is dedicated to promoting an equitable health care system, the United States spends nearly twice as much on private health care as a share of its economy compared to other first world countries. Even with all this spending, when compared to other first world nations, the US has the lowest life expectancy, the highest suicide rates, highest levels of chronic disease and the highest rates of obesity.
Any kind of two tier health system would end up being detrimental for our public health care system. It is up to us the public to take a stand and make sure our public health care system stays in place. The Liberal Party supports this idea to a degree and the New Democratic Party believes strongly in our public health system. To quote one of the founders of the concept of medicare, Tommy Douglas “Unless there is a concerted effort to apply pressure on the Federal and Provincial governments, the erosion of Medicare will continue unabated and might even be accelerated. Our best hope lies in the Canadian Health Coalition … for the preservation and extension of Medicare.”
You can find information how you can support those who advocate for public health by going to their websites including the Canadian Health Coalition at www.healthcoalition.ca The Ontario Health Coalition at: www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca The Council Of Canadians at www.canadians.org The Canadian Union of Public Employees at: www.cupe.ca The Ontario Public Service Employees Union at: www.opseu.org and the Ontario Nurses’ Association at www.ona.org
We owe it to those dedicated politicians, activists, health care professionals, patients and everyone who fought for public health care to keep it alive. I’ve heard it from my parents and my Elders that public health care was one of the greatest services that assisted our people. We don’t need any movement to private health care to serve those who have more money than others, those who feel entitled or those who want to profit from something as necessary and important as universal medicare here in Canada. Our public healthcare system is a major reason that we are considered as a leading democracy and a great country to live in. Support our great health care workers so they can continue to care for all of us in a fair and equitable system open to all.