Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

Health Care, STAT

Posted by JJ in Federal Elections, Golden Tacks (Thursday December 15, 2005 at 12:01 am)

Suddenly, the quintessential Canadian question comes to the fore.

Apparently, there’s a secret plan in the works to privatize health care. Don’t tell too many people, though — it won’t be secret anymore.

Remarkably, we’ve not had to suffer too much on the subject in this election, but the debates are ahead. Once more, the leaders will no doubt compete in swearing their undying loyalty to health care as equally and surely (and probably with as much significance) as they swear loyalty to the Queen.

But this is different, isn’t it? They’ll promise better health care, whatever that means (surely not better health, they’re neither that stupid nor that clever).

But wasn’t this already dealt with, you ask? After all, last election we were promised that health care was to be fixed for a generation. Then it happened, didn’t it? This time around, we didn’t just transfer money — we agreed to set standards nationwide!

And so the provinces have. A new wait-time strategy was recently released, setting 10 benchmarks for wait times that provinces will be required to meet.

Eventually.

If you bother to read the report (which, apparently, few people have), you’ll discover that this is merely the first of a number of stages:

The agreement itself
Finished. Now we know exactly how long we’d like to wait for medical treatment. Good thing, too. I was starting to wonder. Note, however, that the wait times in the agreement are for certain categories of major treatment. They don’t set standards for waiting around in hospitals or for waiting to find a family doctor — lower-profile problems, to be sure, but also the starting point for major ones.
The plan to implement it
Now we’re getting somewhere. You see, the agreement doesn’t tell provinces how to achieve these goals, it simply suggests that they must meet these goals, and prepare plans to do so by, say, the end of 2007. Just to emphasise, no plan to meet the goals needs to be ready (not implemented) until 2007.
The implementation
This part is, of course, where we actually want to be. Unfortunately, there’s no indication whatsoever of when we can expect the benchmarks to be met. Notwithstanding that the federal government has already committed additional funds on an annual basis, nothing provides that the program effect its purported aims at any particular point. It merely requires that a plan to do so be in place by the end of 2007. Presumably, the implementation will begin at some point thereafter. Who knows how long it will take.

What does it all mean?

No progress on wait times for years, despite the fact that both levels of government claim to have struck the deal to fix healthcare for a generation.

No real initiatives to deal with doctor shortages, hospital overcrowding, or any problem beyond some surgical procedures.

A few vague promises to deal with other issues.

Not a fix for this generation, clearly. When will politicians stop making ridiculous claims to have solved our problems?

When we stop assuming that spending is proof enough.

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