Friday, December 02, 2005

Election Day 4 - Health Care Wait Times

Today marks the fourth day of the 2006 election campaign. It also marks the fourth major announcement of the Conservative party.

Speaking in Winnipeg, Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper unveiled his plan to deal with hospital wait times. Mr. Harper was introduced by the Conservative MP and health critic for Charleswood - St. James – Assiniboia, our very own Steven Fletcher.

Stephen Harper’s speech was very frank and to the point. He spoke not as a politician, but rather as a father who understands the importance of a strong health care system. Like all of us, he knows what it is like to bring his son and daughter to the emergency room. He knows what it is like to wait for hours in a doctor’s office. All this, and Stephen Harper knows his family is one of the lucky ones.

Since the liberals took power in the early 1990s, the number of Canadians who do not have a family doctor has grown to 1.2 million people. Seniors say, it is becoming harder and harder to see a specialist. Families are saying that they have to wait longer and longer for treatment, and they are right. Since the liberals took power, the average wait time for treatment has doubled to 18 weeks. Yet, Stephen Harper was quick to point out that health care is not a partisan campaign issue. This is an issue that concerns anyone that ever gets ill.

More than that, health care has become an issue of basic human rights. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada found that Canadians are suffering, and some of us are even dying on waiting lists. As the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Herself wrote, “Access to a waiting list is not access to health care. The suffering of Canadians on a waiting list violates the basic right of Canadians to security of the person.”

As a result, the Court has given governments one year to address the problem. Governments have no choice.

Patients have been saying this. Doctors and nurses have been saying this, and now the Court has confirmed that a government monopoly on health care must be used to provide people with an essential service. It cannot be used to deny it to them. Mr. Harper then added that we must fix the health care system or we risk losing meaningful public health care in this country.

In his speech, Stephen Harper reaffirmed the Conservative Party’s commitment to the Canada Health Act. He reaffirmed the Canadian principle that all Canadians should have equal access to health care regardless of a person’s ability to pay. Stephen made it very clear that if elected, there would not be a parallel private health care system.

With that in mind, he unveiled the Conservative plan to deal with long wait times in this country, while making it painfully clear that there is no quick fix for health care. The problems in our health care system cannot be fixed by making more promises or throwing more money at the system. The health care system in Canada is broken and it needs reform.

The Conservative plan involves focusing the resources of government on the core promises that governments have made. This will involve real reform and real change.

Stephen Harper stated his promise this way:

“The concept of the guarantee is that patients must be able to receive treatment in a medically acceptable, maximum time, for those services that are publicly insured. If this is not available in their own area, they must be given the option of receiving treatment at another hospital or clinic, even if that means going outside of their home Province.”

With the announcement of this sound Conservative plan to reform health care, the left in this country will have to be more creative than simply accusing Conservatives of wanting to destroy health care through privatization.

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