Code Blue… Act to defend public healthcare!

PV Staff 

Throughout the summer, news headlines routinely warned that Canada’s public healthcare system was collapsing as emergency rooms closed and exhausted healthcare workers cautioned that people and institutions were stretched to the limit. 

Across the country there are record job vacancies for healthcare workers, as well as record wait times for hospital beds and surgeries. More and more lives are being risked and lost as corners get cut and access to health services is further reduced.

What the mainstream media isn’t discussing is the cause of this deepening crisis: systematic underfunding combined with creeping privatization that has been facilitated by successive federal governments which refuse to enforce the Canada Health Act. This completely manufactured crisis is now being used by several provincial governments as an excuse for launching another wave of sweeping privatization in healthcare.

For decades people in Canada have consistently ranked public healthcare as one of their highest priorities in federal and provincial elections. Yet, since Medicare was established in Canada in the 1960s, the established capitalist interests have worked to undermine it. 

In response to the emergence of private clinics in Alberta, which allowed the wealthy to pay to “jump the cue” for medical care, the federal government passed the Canada Health Act in 1984. This legislation established the five principles of universality, comprehensive coverage, portability, accessibility and public administration, and stipulated that provinces which did not follow them would have their federal healthcare funding reduced. 

Despite this legislation, the current federal government is following in the footsteps of many Liberal and Conservative governments before it, in refusing to enforce the Act. In the process, Trudeau is giving a green light to provincial governments in their attacks on public healthcare.

The federal NDP has pushed for some modest action on healthcare but was expected to do a lot more under its supply and confidence agreement with the Liberal government. While Jagmeet Singh issued a statement on August 31 calling on Trudeau to defend healthcare from privatization, he did not even suggest the possibility of pulling NDP support for the Liberal minority.

In contrast to the NDP’s soft response, the Communist Party of Canada is placing a high priority on building the active defense against privatization. Meeting on October 15-16, the Party’s Central Committee called on its members and supporters to join healthcare coalitions and help mobilize public opinion to protect and expand fully universal Medicare.

“While the premiers are rightfully asking for adequate funding from the federal government, they are implementing further privatization,” said the Party in a special resolution. “There appears to be a coordinated offensive against public healthcare involving several governments. We need to rise up to defeat these efforts and launch a counter offensive to expand Medicare to include long-term care, pharmacare, dental, vision and mental health care.”

The Communist Party is calling for federal and provincial governments to immediately increase funding, stop breaking the law and enforce the Canada Health Act. The Party is also pressing for adequate staffing, increased wages and improved pensions, decent working conditions for healthcare workers, and legislation to provide 14 employer-paid sick days for all workers and introduce minimum cross-Canada standards of care for all.

More than eighty years ago, Dr. Norman Bethune was a pioneer in the struggle for socialized medicine in Canada. He warned of the dangers of privatization: “Let us take the profit, the private economic profit, out of medicine, and purify our profession of rapacious individualism. Let us make it disgraceful to enrich ourselves at the expense of the miseries of our fellow [humans].” 

[Photo of 2016 rally against Cambie private healthcare clinic: BC Health Coalition]

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