Here’s a story that set my pro-public-healthcare blood to boiling today: Private health clinics in Toronto and Vancouver have purportedly allowed their paying patients to jump the lines for the H1N1 vaccine, the Globe and Mail is reporting. Patients at the two clinics pay dearly to reach the front of the healthcare line: Vancouver’s Copeman Healthcare Centre (which also has a clinic in Calgary) charges $3,900 for the first year of membership and Toronto’s Medcan charges a $2,700 membership fee. Well, so much for our universal healthcare system.
What concerns me here is not the fact that these clinics have access to the vaccine’family doctors in Ontario and B.C., are being offered the vaccine to give to their high-risk patients, so doesn’t it make sense that a private clinic would also receive a shipment? What gets me riled up is the fact that these clinics represent a hole in the healthcare system that many Canadians hold so dear. ‘Framed by the Canada Health Act, the principles governing our health care system are symbols of the underlying Canadian values of equity and solidarity,’ says Health Canada’s website. But where do these private clinics fit in? For their fee, those that can afford to be patients at Medcan receive ‘year-round access to our extensive network of the best specialists in Canada and internationally.’ Does someone who relies on the public healthcare system receive the same access? Not likely, as 63% of specialists polled in the most recent National Physicians Survey said they’re unable to see patients who need urgent care within one day.
I’m not about to argue that our system is perfect. In fact, it’s far from it. But isn’t the controversy here not about the fact that the H1N1 vaccine is available at private clinics, but that these clinics exist in Canada in the first place? What do you think? Would you join a private clinic if you could?