Sechelt's Seaside Centre was packed on Sunday afternoon with people eager to hear three of the Coast's doctors speak out against the privatization of health care.
The event, sponsored by the Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of B.C. (COSCO), brought out over 100 people, mainly senior citizens, to both listen and share their concerns about the health care system. "As a person working within the system, I'm quite alarmed by the erosion of the quality of care within the system," Dr. Ronald Estey said.
That sentiment was echoed over and over again as people in the crowd stood up to tell of their own experiences of poor service in the public system. "I believe a perfect storm is developing. As quality deteriorates, people are becoming unhappy with the system, with waiting times and with the overall service. If this continues, people will seek out private options. We have to improve the public system," Estey added. Dr. Jon Farrer spoke about what he has seen happen in Britain, where he is originally from. He said the situation is dismal; public health care is being completely overrun by private services and it is a difficult trend to stop once it gets started.
Sylvia MacLeay, from COSCO Vancouver, said every time you pay a single penny for additional service you are supporting the privatization of healthcare. "If your grandson breaks his arm and needs a cast, you can take the fibreglass one that's going to melt in the bath, or you can choose to pay a bit more for a plastic cast. The decision to pay is a decision to support private healthcare," MacLeay said. Dr. Jane Bishop spoke about the temptation for doctors to leave the public health care system; expressing her own belief that doctors have an obligation to society. "We could all go and work privately at this time in Canada and be paid more and have more control over hours, but I believe we have a social contract and an obligation to look after each other. I know this can be difficult, but I know we can afford it -privatization is the wrong step," Bishop said. Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons says the Coast has proven time and time again that they are willing to step-up to improve the community's quality of health care despite a lack of government support. Simons says we need to be aware of the possibility that the health care system is being under-funded as a means of justifying privatization.
"People with concerns should write to the Ministry of Health, they have to be held accountable," Simons said.