By Barbara Cape, The StarPhoenix
This appeared in the Star Phoenix on February 3, 2011.
Having access to comprehensive health-care service is important to every resident of Saskatchewan.
Unfortunately, our current government is seemingly placing more emphasis on privately delivered and privately funded health care and is, in effect, working toward the removal of the public option for the people of Saskatchewan.
The evidence is everywhere.
Rural communities are being forced to raise money out of their own pockets to entice general practitioners and maintain their hospitals. To attract doctors, communities with more assets are outbidding those that can’t afford the extra.
Why should residents of rural Saskatchewan be required to pay twice for health care -once through their taxes and again through fundraising or a health-care levy by their municipality?
If the public system were properly funded, this wouldn’t be an issue.
While the community and rural municipalities are busy looking for a doctor and raising money to get a doctor, the government is wasting taxpayers’ dollars to the tune of $200,000 worth of office furniture for the Provincial Physician Recruitment agency.
This even though it has perfectly good furniture up for sale on a government website. Wouldn’t that money be better invested in the salary for one doctor in a community that desperately needs a physician to maintain its hospital?
Health Minister Don McMorris fails to recognize the concerns of the citizens in those communities and organizations that are working diligently to retain their public health care.
Residents of Wakaw and surrounding areas invited McMorris to their community meeting on Jan. 25, but he did not even show up to hear their concerns.
On behalf of SEIU-West members employed at Wakaw Hospital, I wrote in December to the minister about this very important subject and requested his urgent attention. I have yet to receive a reply.
The government is busy selling the concept of private surgical teams rather than improving surgery wait times by building public capacity.
The government is ignoring the people of Saskatchewan and is creating a two-tier health system -one for rural communities and quite another for urban communities.
The message the government is sending out is this: If you live in a rural community, be prepared to pay extra to have your public health care delivered. If you refuse to pay, you will get Band-Aids instead of doctors. Yet if you live in an urban area, you don’t have to worry and you don’t have to pay more to get access to your doctors.
However, the government pays more for every test and surgical procedure provided by a private, forprofit facility.
I am by no means advocating for urbanites to pay more taxes. On the contrary, I’m calling on the government to protect the birthplace of medicare by investing in our publicly funded, publicly delivered and publicly administered health-care system and do better by the people it was elected to serve.
The people of Saskatchewan are the real strategic resource -not just potash!
Rural hospitals need beds, not Band-Aids. Let’s try to fund them adequately so that they have the resources to remain open.