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LETTERS – Private vs, public healthcare

On Thursday, Nov. 10, CBC National News featured, as the headline story, the merits of private vs. public health care in Newfoundland and Labrador as a possible solution to fixing the province’s broken public health care model. Fixing our health care system is not going to happen anytime soon, so for now maybe here is an opportunity to weigh in on another alternative to calls for appointments that go unanswered, or cramped emergency rooms that are blocked as people desperately seek health care. Lost in the shuffle are those in dire need of intervention and tragically, unfortunately are not getting the help they need.

Is an expansion of a private health care, working side by side in NL as part of the solution of our current health care crisis, a realistic model to explore as thousands of residents stand in a queue, desperately trying to meet individual and family health care needs?

Private health care models operating as separate entities or in conjunction with the public health care system do already exist in NL. These are found primarily in physical therapy, chiropractic, dental, optometry, pharmaceutical, home care, nursing homes, etc. Given the current crisis of care where thousands of Newfoundlanders are forced to delay treatment and struggle daily with access to care, will an expansion of health care to include private diagnostic service such as blood work, currently done primarily within the public domain, share in a new model of care?

While there is evidence and support for a shared model to include an expansion of private health care similar to others, such as Physio North in Labrador City, there are those within the public system just as quickly condemned. As evidence of current demand, a private clinic in Labrador is booked up until the new year.

“Over time the richer of us in our society will be able to access care if they pay for it, but there’s a whole other group of people now that will fall through the cracks.” (CBC News, Nov 10/22) Mary Shortall, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, which represents about 70,000 workers in the province, says there’s no room in public health for profit. (M. Moore, CBC News NL, Nov 10/22)

One would have to agree to disagree, but doesn’t the for-profit model already exist when one considers that physicians’ offices operating out of national drugstore chains are, in reality, a private business enterprise that bills the government in an arranged fee for service?

With the province’s health care in crisis and solutions for issues related to doctor shortages, nursing shortages, lab tech shortages, sick leave, lack of care beds, unimaginable wait times, closing emergency department, etc., a voice needs to be heard that maybe greater support and the expansion of private health clinics staffed by accredited medical professionals should be considered in the same light as costly immigration schemes seeking nurses halfway round the world.

For a lay person such as yours truly, now at a vulnerable age where medical care is paramount in addressing quality of life, private clinics that are a fee-for-service paid for through Medicare, private insurance or even cash-for-service may have to be part of the solution to our health crisis. At the very least, the option that already exists and is currently entrenched in NL, needs to be expanded.

John Spencer Channel-Port aux Basques

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