Opinion: Myths and realities about private and public health care

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The so-called equity concern is also misleading. Canada consistently ranks among the lowest in terms of the overall equity of its health-care system. OECD countries with both government and independent health-care systems perform better than Canada on this measure.

The equity argument is also undermined by the fact that the government does not cover a range of medically necessary services. Physiotherapy, dental procedures and many kinds of medication are excluded from the government plan for no reason other than cost. Cosmetic surgery is readily available privately, but a medically necessary knee replacement can have a 90-week wait time.

Another claim is that the new clinics could actually make wait times longer, due to a lack of physicians, or physicians being lured away from government hospitals.

Again, this is not supported by any evidence. In reality, the government system rations health care and does not use the full capacity of all specialist physicians. Specialists do not have sufficient operating room time in government hospitals. Many specialists seek hospital privileges, but cannot obtain them because of lack of operating time. Surgeries by specialists at independent clinics will be in addition to the surgeries they perform in the public system, not in substitution.

In B.C., independent orthopedic clinics have operated since 1996. The result was that the total number of surgeries increased with no reduction in the availability of public surgeries.

It’s time to set aside old dogmatic beliefs about how health care in Canada operates and put patient interests first.

Christine Van Geyn is the litigation director of the Calgary-based Canadian Constitution  Foundation.

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