Privatisation, the time bomb


With American medical corporations now looking at the lucrative market in Ontario, how long it will be before we in Quebec face a similar threat? Health care remains in crisis and already eats a significant portion of our province’s budget. No need to outline all the problems – although we ought not ignore the many positive reports and praise from those serving within our pubic system.

The Doug Ford argument is that if some can afford to pay for their own care, why not let them do so? Ha! If only it were so simple – “letting them do it themselves” means dismantling what still remains of world-admired health care delivery across Canada. “Letting the wealthy buy their own” does exist – anyone can fly to the USA for care at world-class prices. Why not leave it at that, and just keep improving and expanding the system that serves us all more-or-less well. Would you rather have the healthcare of Mexico, or, perhaps Turkey? Brazil? India? No, overall our system is working almost as well as anyone could expect. Huge problems of bureaucracy impede us, while private systems are syphoning off our nurses and technicians.

Health care is not the same as providing used cars, air service, or new clothing. Healthcare deals with complex human beings, full of complaints, fears, grandiose wishes and outrageous demands. Serving the public in such intimate, life-and-death ways is bound to be filled with problems and shortfalls. Healthcare is not a one-time consumer purchase – given the frailties of human beings, the need for follow-up care, the discovery of new treatments and insights …. we ought to expect that health-care will always be problematic, compared with buying a car. And in these terms, Quebec’s system is very good. I have heard more praise than complaint about our doctors, nurses and hospitals. There will always be improvements possible, always be shocking stumbles (like racism in healthcare delivery).

There is a dark side to this story, and that is the corporate argument that big companies can deliver health outcomes better and faster than the public system (with no mention of cost). There is profit to be made from health care. Just look at our southern neighbour. Aren’t we denying capitalism (our unofficial religion) one of its most lucrative profit centres?

Critics even within privatized systems point out that corporations actually fail in significant areas of care delivery. Research, for example. Research goes well, if Wall Street can make big profits from a remedy or treatment. But if they can’t, those diseases and threats remain untreated – Big Pharma refuses to seriously research today’s growing drug-resistance in antibiotics. There’s no money in it! And we’d encourage this?

Privatized health also creates whole areas of untreated diseases (poor people) and vast pools of infection which inevitably evolve further and spread to “healthy” areas.

The corporations also want us to fund a public system alongside their private cash-cow — so we, the public, can research and pay for the problems the private system refuses to treat, leaving them their “profit centres”. Obviously they think we’re all stupid.

Yet Canadians understand that our taxes go to help everyone and not just to provide an escape value for the wealthy who fly away for treatments. Corporate profit is actually taxation – those profits come from our wallets. We’d pay tax twice.

Privatization also fractures a society, enlarges existing economic and geographical divisions,pitting groups, classes and regions against each other. Privatization rests entirely on a law-of-the-jungle mentality, reinforcing corporate sanctification of “individualism” over family and community. “Free enterprise” is not free at all; it rests on a “Buyer Beware” policy, and encourages corruption and bribery, preying on the unwell, the elderly and incapacitated.

I dare add that all – yes, all – of corporate innovations and discoveries rest ultimately upon funding from the community, tax breaks and incentives, government and foundations’ aid.

Many things can look good at a distance, but turn down the steady propaganda … the so-called advantages of letting corporations make money off our health and well-being is a recipe for division, suffering and increased poverty.

Why would we want privatisation at all?