Health-care spending in British Columbia is among the highest in the world.
British Columbians are paying for a world-class health-care system, but for a variety of reasons we are not getting value for our tax dollars. Interestingly enough, B.C.'s health-care problems do not stem from a lack of money, so it's unlikely these problems can be solved by throwing more money into what has become something of a black hole.
Instead, substantial reforms to the way health care is financed and delivered appear to be necessary in order to bring the performance of B.C.'s health-care system into alignment with the high levels of spending.
British Columbians are forced to wait four months, on average, for medically necessary treatment. Even monumental increases in government spending have failed to noticeably reduce wait times over the past decade. Equally troubling is the fact that British Columbians face some of the longest wait times for medical treatment in the developed world.
For example, wait times for orthopedic surgery are extremely long in B.C., a situation which subjects patients to unnecessary periods of pain and immobility. Yet, while the average taxpayer is forced to wait months (sometimes years) for treatment, we allow Workers' Compensation patients, RCMP members and, yes, prisoners to jump the queue and access private health care to expedite their treatment, an option not available to the average citizen.
Canada is the only country that makes it illegal for its citizens to spend their own money on health care. A 2007 survey states 26 per cent of doctors have had a patient in their care die while on a wait list for treatment.
According to the Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index, Canada ranks last among 33 countries in value for money spent. The fact is that B.C. health care's single organizational system that includes financing bodies and providers, and does not offer a choice between insurers, tends to create inefficiency, an unwieldy bureaucracy and is generally unresponsive to patients' needs.
Reforms are necessary to promote consumer choice and allow competition to cure the system's inefficiency and shorten wait times. If money is tied to patients, this will allow the consumer to access care at the hospital of their choice. Hospitals will focus on better, more efficient methods of treatment, thus reducing wait lists, so health-care dollars flow to their facility.
A prime example of this model in action is the Netherlands. Of the 33 countries represented in the Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index, the Netherlands consistently ranks at the top.
The Supreme Court of Canada states "The evidence shows that delays in the public health-care system are widespread and patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care. The courts have a duty to rise above political debate."
To date, no politician has shown the leadership to begin any meaningful debate on health-care reform.
As our population continues to age, increasing the number of seniors accessing health care, our health-care costs will continue to rise. The coming years will be the first time in history that our children's generation will have a lower standard of living than the last generation, due to the rising costs of health care and overspending by governments pulling tax dollars away from education, job creation, child poverty reduction and the environment to shore up the health-care system.
We must be willing to have a reasonable discussion on health-care reform. Profound and necessary changes can be made as long as the principles of universal health care are maintained. It's time for politicians to lead and find solutions to long wait lists and high costs, and let the public decide what direction we should take.
Freedom of choice is what British Columbiastands for. How did we stray so far?
B.C. Conservative Party candidate,