Patient care and not phoney bureaucratic metrics or political grandstanding about equality has to be the focus for everyone, writes Philip Cross in the Financial Post. Below is an excerpt from the article, which can be read in full here.
By Philip Cross, January 22, 2021
For nearly a year the COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with our already dysfunctional health-care system. Shawn Whatley has written an erudite and informative book, When Politics Comes Before Patients, about how the health-care system ended up in this morass and how it can get out. A doctor and former head of the Ontario Medical Association, Whatley’s command of both medicine and management uniquely qualifies him to diagnose what ails our health-care system.
The flaw at the heart of Canada’s socialized medicine, Whatley argues, is the focus on planning and distributional issues instead of results and patient care. The expansion of bureaucracy and government control of health care has led to a deterioration of outcomes, notably the steady growth of costs for taxpayers and wait times for patients. Canada has become the poster boy for Gammon’s Law, which states, based on a British study of the National Health Service, that increases in health-care spending will be matched by lower production: spend more, get less.
Canada’s health-care system is now best known around the world for its waiting lists. This is ironic for several reasons. Despite its obsession with planning, Canada’s health-care bureaucracy never planned that waiting lists would be the outcome of its policies and actions. And “access to waiting lists is not access to health care,” as one Supreme Court justice trenchantly observed. Moreover, waiting lists open the door for inequality in access to health care, when greater equality was the main justification for Medicare.
Waiting lists lead to both unequal access to health care and queue-jumping, facilitated by personal contacts in the health-care system, celebrity or political or other influence: preferential access is a prime motivation for donating to hospital foundations, as TV star and NBA owner Mark Cuban once said after being treated in a Toronto hospital. Queue-jumping is so common that in 2004 Ontario passed a law forbidding it, though it has never been enforced.