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LETTER: Governments must protect health care

['Letter to the editor']
['Letter to the editor']

Several hundreds of private health clinics and patients reveal that extra user-fees amounting to hundreds or thousands of dollars are threatening access to health care and hurting patients. Canada’s governments are doing nothing to stop it.

Results of a new cross-Canada study of 136 private hospital, diagnostic and “boutique” physician clinics and almost 400 individual patients exposed extra user-charges are being charged for needed health care services. Under the Canada Health Act such user fees are forbidden. But the health coalition found evidence that at least 88 clinics in six provinces are charging extra user fees. The report, ‘Private Clinics and the Threat to Public Medicare in Canada’ is available on line at www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca.

Health Coalitions including the P.E.I. Health Coalition and public interest advocates across Canada are warning that challenges to public health care posed by private clinics have come to a head. Unless governments act to protect patients, public health care is at risk.

As private clinics have moved in and taken over services provided by our public hospitals, they have bolstered their owners’ income and profits by charging user fees to patients. It is unacceptable that patients are manipulated into paying outrageous prices for health care when they have already paid their taxes. Health care should be based on need, not wealth, said Natalie Mehra, the report’s author.

Under Canada’s Public Medicare system, provinces are required to protect patients against unlawful user charges and extra-billing, said Adrienne Silnicki, national coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition. “The federal government is obligated to uphold the law and has the power to penalize provinces that fail to comply. Both levels of government also have an obligation to provide needed hospital and physician care to meet our communities’ needs. But they are failing to do so.”

The P.E.I. Health Coalition warns that there is a private MRI clinic in Moncton and some private clinics in Nova Scotia. When we by-pass the public health care system and pay for services in those private clinics we are actually lengthening the wait time in the public system. Provinces need to invest more in the public health care system rather than allowing private, for-profit interests to take over. The Coalition is interested to hear from Islanders who have been charged for services in the public system. For further information call 902-892-9074.

Mary Boyd,

P.E.I. Health Coalition   

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