On Thursday, March 8 I attended the community forum hosted by CBC Radio in Sudbury. Paramedics, nurses, doctors and nurse practitioners spoke about problems and solutions. They spoke about the unfinished hospital and about health-care issues surrounding clinics, lack of family doctors, and what one nurse described as a dangerous shortage of nurses.
It was obvious all of the professionals know what has to be done. The longer-range solutions include:
– Heading off the nursing shortage by training far more than the 3,200 nurses per year trained now.
– We need to continue to do all we can to attract doctors to Sudbury.
– We need to finish the hospital and renovate the other sites because clearly we are going to need them. The shorter term solutions include creating, without delay, community clinics staffed with doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses.
Also, a system of sharing medical records is crucial, especially in this age of an imminent public health crisis involving SARS.
Former mayor Jim Gordon highlighted the fact that, tens of thousands of Sudburians without a family doctor have no medical history being monitored and so, their lives are at risk. He was right to say there should be a war over this state of affairs.
There was no shortage of knowledge, commitment or love of community at the forum. What we were short of were explanations for the complete lack of transparency and accountability on the part of those who are in charge of managing our health-care system. The forum helped us see what needs to be done locally, and reassured those of us there that the people in the frontlines of the system know what to do to fix things.
So why are they not able to? The major part of the answer is the fact that the health-care system is being privatized right before our eyes. North American political and corporate elites have their own agenda for health care. The health-care issue cannot be properly contextualized without examining the relationship between these corporate leaders and our political leaders. There is a plan for health care in this country, and it is being formulated as any other corporate business plan would be – in secret, by unaccountable CEOs, with no democratic input by “ordinary” working class citizens. There is no conspiracy or dark plot.
It is simply business conducted by those who have attended the same university and business schools. They belong to the same clubs and social networks. They pride themselves on having a vision for the future and the will to make that vision become reality. They view themselves as community leaders and have no doubt that their personal routes to success entitle them to lead political and economic agendas within or outside of government.
The key to their success often lies with well-meaning people such as hospital CEO Vickie Kaminski and those who support her; community leaders who see their own careers enhanced by the vision of these corporate elites. Many of us “ordinary” folk attach our horses to different wagons.
These mostly male CEOs are members of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), which represent Canada’s richest 150 corporations. This organization is backed by think tanks such as the C.D. Howe Institute, the Fraser Institute and the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. A major initiative is underway, which has the full support of the CCCE and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, called the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). The goal of this initiative is economic and security integration with the United States, and the major spin off is greater corporate profit. The SPP is being crafted, according to a Council of Canadians (CoC) report, without public debate. The CoC report states that “the SPP was signed without the backing of Parliament, and without the general knowledge or acceptance of the Canadian public.”
A reader may well ask, what does this have to do with our health-care system?
The think tanks mentioned earlier are the same ones that were instrumental in feeding policy ideas to the Mike Harris government in Ontario. Those policies of drastic cuts to government funding directly caused the massive social problems, including health care, we see in Sudbury. It is possible to look at the federal Liberal record as well, when Paul Martin balanced his books by cutting federal transfer payments to the provinces. The ranks of the Liberal and Conservative parties are swelled by those who promote the vision of for-profit health care.
Stage one is being accomplished by starving the system of cash. The method is by stealth, while we argue over the number of bandages someone should get, or who will miscarry in a hospital washroom, as we lament at the desperate plight of those who can’t find mental health beds.