Vancouver Coastal Health Authority Canceling Thousands of Surgeries to Bridge Budget Gap

Vancouver Coastal Health proclaims on its website that it “delivers quality health services to the people and communities we serve.” It would be funny if it weren’t such a gross inaccuracy. We are learning that the system is canceling thousands of surgeries in order to bridge a budget gap. If you have any family members who live in Vancouver and they have a brain or vascular surgery scheduled after September 1st, they may very well be waiting for that surgery until March 31st of next year:

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is planning to shut down nearly one-quarter of its operating rooms and cancel thousands of elective surgeries between Sept. 1 and March 31 in a bid to bridge a $90-million budget gap, NDP health critic Adrian Dix charged yesterday.

Mr. Dix, MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway, said documents leaked to him by “health authority sources” propose cutting 6,250 surgeries, about 24 per cent of all scheduled procedures, to the end of fiscal 2009-10.

“What they’re doing is deferring these surgeries until the next fiscal year to save money. It’s going to increase wait times for people, and thousands of medically necessary procedures won’t be performed,” he said.

The plan targets cataract operations, coronary bypasses, joint replacements, certain types of neurosurgery and a variety of elective procedures, Mr. Dix said.

Yikes! That list sounds pretty ominous. Coronary bypasses? How many people will die of heart disease as they languish even longer on wait lists? Neurosurgery? That creates a whole host of awful images of people with brain tumors being forced to wait even longer for medically necessary surgeries. What a nightmare.

In my most recent AIP column that was out on Thursday, I wrote about the stealth private health care system that is growing in Canada, which is a result of the public system’s failures. This system is so far growing primarily in Quebec as the result of a 2005 Canadian Supreme Court ruling:

Technically, private clinics and hospitals are illegal in Canada. The point of Canada’s health care system is fairness. No one is supposed to have better care than anyone else. This idea is nice in theory, but the inevitable result of government run “fairness” is rationing and limiting access to doctors and procedures in order to control skyrocketing costs. Consequently, patients sometimes die as they wait their turn for life saving procedures. Perhaps not surprisingly, Canadians sued the government in order to force changes, and in 2005 Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that citizens in Quebec who face unreasonable wait times can go to private health care providers. This ruling has resulted in a stealth, private health care system that acts as a kind of support system for the government system by taking on the procedures the government system can no longer perform. This private system has worked so well that at the end of September of this year the role that private clinics play in Quebec will dramatically expand. The number of procedures the government will send to be performed in private hospitals and clinics will increase from three to fifty-six. In fact, some elective surgeries such as hip replacements and bariatric surgeries will be performed exclusively at private clinics that have contracted with the government. Another bold change taking place is that doctors who work in Canada’s government system will also be able to work in the private clinics as well, offering their patients more choices. Patients can choose to wait in the government system for whatever number of weeks for a procedure or pay out of pocket and have the procedure done immediately in the private clinic. These changes are dramatic and sweeping. However, Quebec is not alone. British Columbia and Alberta are also moving in this direction as well.

The Canadian Medical Association supports the infusion of private health care into the government system. In a report on Monday, the president of the CMA announced that Canada’s health care system is “sick” and the nation’s doctors need to work on finding a “cure”. Dr. Robert Ouellet, CMA’s current director believes Canadians would be best served if there were a private option in order to offer patients alternatives to the country’s government run system. It seems that the Canadian Medical Association has realized that the stealth private health clinics are working well alongside the government system and are just acknowledging what is already a reality. Single payer, government run health care systems do not work. They eventually collapse under their own weight, as is happening right now in Canada. In order to relieve the pressure of increasing demand, the private sector is not only an aid but a necessity.

Vancouver’s decision to cut medically necessary surgeries to save money proves the point that private industry is absolutely necessary. And it seems the CEO of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority agrees as she has decided to find employment in greener pastures:

Vancouver Coastal Health CEO Ida Goodreau jumped ship in February for a job in private-sector health care.

Well, that says it all, doesn’t it?

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