When I woke up to reports that Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier Danny Williams went to the U.S. to undergo heart surgery, you can probably guess what question popped into my head. Maybe a similar question floated through your mind when you read the reports in today’s papers. And perhaps, like me, you felt conflicted about considering this question. After all, heart surgery is serious business and I do believe that a person’s health is his own private affair, regardless of his office. But this is an inevitable question; one that is indicative of the politics surrounding healthcare in this country.
So here it is, the elephant in the room:
Why would a Canadian premier need to go to the U.S. for surgery?
The answer, says deputy premier Kathy Dunderdale. is that the surgery Williams needs isn’t offered in Newfoundland and Labrador, CTV.ca reports. Fair enough. But here’s another question on my mind: What would a regular Newfoundlander do in this same situation? Williams was a wealthy lawyer and businessman before he took office and he donates his premiere’s salary to charity. Clearly he can afford whatever costs come with undergoing surgery in the States. However, I’m pretty sure an everyday Newfoundlander couldn’t afford that same opportunity. As Lz in Edmonton asked in the comments on the CTV.ca report, "Are there no heart specialists in Newfoundland?"
Of course, Williams has the right to personally pay for heart surgery in the States, if that’s what he’s doing (Dunderdale says she doesn’t know whether or not Williams is personally paying for his surgery), and I certainly wish him well in his recovery. However, the question remains: Why can’t a Canadian premier get the healthcare he needs right here in Canada?
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Liberal leader Yvonne Jones says the premiere should explain why he’s receiving care in the States. Do you think that’s an invasion of William’s privacy or should he have to explain his healthcare choice because of his high office?