Private health care a reality for Whistler Medical Clinic 

Health care providers not impressed by politicians’ promises

More money.

Essentially, this is what the major parties have promised for Canada’s embattled health care system.

And while this money – billions of dollars – will be welcome, in the opinion of some medical professionals it won’t be enough.

Despite the fact that approximately 30 per cent of Canada’s health care system is already privately run, none of the major parties have addressed a two-tiered system, which would incorporate private and public care.

The Conservatives are yet to announce their full health care agenda but both the Liberals and NDP have indicated that more money will be enough to fix the current public system.

In effect, the Liberals and the NDP are saying that a public health care system which allows everyone access to the same care, is more important than allowing the people with money to pay for what they can afford.

It is an argument many people would agree with, but there are also many people, particularly in the Sea-to-Sky corridor, who don’t.

In Whistler, for instance, hundreds of people from around the world visit the region on holidays and are injured partaking in leisure activities.

Most of these people have private health care, which they obtain before leaving their own countries. When they’re injured the medical system here benefits simply because it can charge foreigners more for services.

To better understand some of the health care issues in the Sea-to-Sky corridor Pique Newsmagazine contacted more than 10 doctors, but only one was willing to comment on the 2004 Federal Election.

Dr. Thomas DeMarco, a physician at the Whistler Health Care centre, said he was cynical about what the major parties promise.

"I’m cynical of all the major parties. I vote Green, and I’m not surprised they haven’t addressed some private initiatives," said DeMarco.

"I’m in favour of any and all health care, I think private health care is the most important, especially having the right to do so."

DeMarco said doctors in Whistler are constantly dealing with private health care cases.

"A lot of my patients are covered by private care because they come from other countries. In fact I would say that we probably have more patients here on a per capita basis than any other facility in Canada.

"And any time we see someone from another country it’s private, and we like it because we get paid more – how could you not like it?

"I personally think that health care is ultimately the individual’s responsibility, I don’t consider it a political issue."

Clinical Services Co-ordinator at the Whistler Health Care centre Francesca Cole has been a nurse for 20 years and worked on many initiatives in the Sea to Sky corridor.

She said a public health care system could only survive if the federal government implemented long-term plans.

"If you look at the Liberals, they’ve said $9 billion… but you’ve got to remember that when you’re talking $9 billion, that’s for 10 provinces and three territories. And then you come to B.C. where there are some big spread out communities," Cole said. "So by the time the money gets down the tree there’s usually not a lot of money there.

"You have to be careful with promises because… if it’s a one-time lump sum, it will take care of all the surgical waiting lists.

"But then they’re (the waiting lists) going to build up again because there’s no money coming in, so one-time money doesn’t solve problems, you’ve got to have a follow up plan."

Cole indicated that Canada’s aging population would continue to put a lot of pressure on the health care system.

"We’re living longer but we’re living with more chronic illnesses," she said.

"Like HIV, initially patients were dying pretty quickly because we had no treatment but now they’re living 10-15 years, but their medications are horrendously expensive.

"Technology and research is changing but it’s also expensive, so the costs just keep increasing.

"I think (a private system is) inevitable unless the system changes.

"If the federal government is actually willing to throw a tonne of money at health care and then stay out of the health care business and let people who know the health care business do their job, then we can do things like bring down the waiting lists."

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