Not enough for health care?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

While many Quebeckers see the Couillard-Barrette cuts and health-service compactions as a continuation of Stephen Harper’s austerity policies, this newspaper may have uncovered a second stage to Minister Barrette’s program. It goes beyond anything Harper might have imagined. Phase II, presented here for the first time, is titled “Tongue-in-Cheek Health Report II”.
Crucial to note, as explained by our local MNA, is that health-care has “no social–economic function”. So this Phase II pushes the health system in a new, modern business direction. Not merely privatizing services, it means a very daring reform: health care must pay for itself. Why should healthy people support unhealthy ones? asked the health minister, under his breath.
Several years ago this column proposed, re the merger of the Hull and Gatineau hospitals, that any new mega-hospital for Gatineau need not be “new”. We recommended merging the hospitals with the Lake Leamy casino. No parking shortages, and part of the spectacular casino profits would now go right to local health care. Waiting rooms, to everyone’s delight, would be gaming rooms. Perhaps the idea was too novel at the time, although the column did win a blue ribbon that year. 
Phase II could include this proposal. However, Barrette’s first move will be, obviously, to remove all health institutions from high-cost areas – cities – to save costs of real estate, rentals, salaries, purchasing, and services – these savings could go into health care, once it is away from the province’s expensive cities.  
In fact, for hospitals like Gatineau’s, which cannot get their budgets nor their success rates into reasonable shape, they could be just shut down. Immediately, all their patients and poor success statistics would disappear!  Fewer hospitals and fewer admissions of sick people mean a statistical improvement in public health – in one swoop.
Besides incorporating casinos (or video lotteries, minimally) to generate self-financing, all hospitals and CLSCs (should these survive) would spread into various for-profit initiatives. An exclusive restaurant, coffee shop, or gym, for example, or a trailer park and camp ground. 
Shawville is ready for the Barrette Plan. With the unused old age home
adjacent, this could become a revenue-generating tourist attraction. Tourists love museums, so why not here a Museum of Medical Mistakes and Disasters? The public loves such things! 
Product sales, a backbone for sports teams – why not for health?  “Clients” could buy their themed hospital gowns as souvenirs, and all sorts of programs, devices, hearing aids, all ID’d as Shawville’s, are sold as keepsakes.  
Get rid of the gift shop. Every hospital will have a large modern storefront; “clients” must pass through the show room to reach the hospital registration and waiting rooms. Sales opportunities are incredible.
Similar to this could be “hostesses”, hired to sell product and souvenirs
in the waiting rooms. Clothing, fashion items, toys, souvenirs – there’s never been a captive market marketing opportunity like this. Snacks, even alcoholic drinks for those able in the waiting rooms . . . bars are profitable.
This fits Couillard’s colourful “Moroccan Bazaar” health-service model. Waiting rooms would be more interesting, with the “hostesses” and all sorts of other services, too – masseuses, hair stylists, alternative health services, naturopaths, ear-cleaning, fortune-tellers, horoscopes, herbals and medical M, discount internet drugs – every sale returns a profit to the hospital! 
Last reform? Now that the health system is profit-driven, sell shares. Dr Barrette could cash in his shares to – legally – pay for a Cayman Island retirement.
There, our health-system budget is in the black. Isn’t this how a rational, modern society should manage its health care?