OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said he will help provinces introduce “innovations” in private health care to provide “more choice and less wait,” as long as there is “l ‘universal access’ and free medical services to the public.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says that means O’Toole “believes in a private for-profit health care system and won’t tell people what exactly he wants to do with it.”
On the contrary, O’Toole hit back, “I support the health care system that we have now.
But the Conservative leader dodged a straightforward response on Tuesday on how deeply he supports the introduction of private health services into a public system. And when asked to explain why he supports Saskatchewan’s practice of allowing those who can afford it to pay for faster access to diagnostic imaging – which can lead to surgeries or other treatments earlier – O’Toole again declined to provide a broader explanation.
“I support universal access in our system, public and free,” said the Conservative leader. “And I also support the provinces by ensuring that they can offer more choice, faster service and less wait for their citizens.”
Healthcare has become a key issue in the fourth wave of the pandemic, as liberals and conservatives clash in the election campaign over COVID-19 vaccinations, public and private healthcare and care for the elderly.
Liberals highlight O’Toole’s statement last year in the Conservative leadership race that he supports Saskatchewan’s innovation model, which allows patients to pay up to $ 950 for MRI scans in a private clinic.
But O’Toole is unrepentant. “If Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario or Quebec want to innovate to provide better health care, I support them,” he said Tuesday.
” Why? Because it gives Canadians more choice. The more health care choices Canadians have, the better. It cuts wait times and frees up more money to reinvest in health care. My point of view is consistent with the belief that Ottawa should not dictate to Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan or any other province.
Liberals say they decided to restrict private role in health care – O’Toole says they tolerated it while in government – and threatened to ‘claw back’ payments transfer for health care if Saskatchewan did not eliminate MRI fees for patients.
O’Toole used the statement to accuse Trudeau of threatening to withdraw health funds “in the event of a pandemic” and of being prepared to “compromise” people’s health.
But the Liberals warned Saskatchewan and other provinces three years ago. It was at this point that then-Health Minister Ginette Pettipas-Taylor said that Ottawa was formalizing “the long-standing federal position that medically necessary diagnostic services received in private clinics are considered insured health services ”, which means that they must be covered by the government and should not be considered paid services.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu later concluded that there was also “evidence that residents are paying out of pocket for faster access to diagnostic services in other provinces, including British Columbia. , in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia ”.
Hajdu said the effective date of the government’s ban on patient fees for this type of MRI scan was set for April 2020 to give provinces “time to align their health systems with new ones. requirements of this policy ”.
But she also warned that provinces and territories that continued to allow patients to be billed privately would be “subject to deductions from federal transfers under the Canada Health Act” by March 2023.
Speaking on Tuesday, Trudeau did not reserve his criticisms for the Conservatives, accusing the New Democrats of “always playing a good game” but never having a concrete plan to implement. “The choice is clear in this election,” he said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who on Tuesday pledged that an NDP government would eliminate for-profit operators in the long-term care sector, retorted that none of his rivals can be trusted with healthcare or long-term care for the elderly.
Singh highlighted what he called a liberal record of supporting the private sector in long-term care.
“It is clear that the Liberals, Justin Trudeau and the Conservatives believe in for-profit care,” Singh said. “We’re the only ones who say it shouldn’t be for profit. It should be non-profit.
Dr. Katharine Smart, the new president of the Canadian Medical Association, said in an interview that “every election we see the subject of privatization popping up, and it’s a challenge, because I think on the surface, it’s attractive, isn’t it? You think, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s get some things off the public system.’
“But I think the real conversation is about why we don’t publicly fund the things people need to be healthy. So if these surgeries and diagnostic scans are things people need, why is there not enough funding to allow the provinces to deliver them under the system that we have?
The CMA says five million Canadians do not have access to a primary care physician and that the problems with the system run deep.
“We know that in other countries that have gone for privatization, it creates inequalities in terms of wait times and who gets what services,” said Smart.
“So I think what we’re really asking for is to actually invest in our publicly funded system in a way that is adequate to allow the services people need to be delivered in a sustainable way. And that’s what we don’t see.
Political parties are fighting over “vague ideas” and numbers, but have failed to provide the necessary level of detail on health care, she said.
“The devil is in the details.
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