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Canadian Medical Association urges private delivery of healthcare

The Canadian Medical Association says that provincial governments must hire private-sector firms to deliver public-funded healthcare services to prevent delays

According to local media reports, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has released a policy document stating that provincial governments must hire private-sector firms to deliver public-funded healthcare services to prevent delays for urgent medical treatment.

CMA president, Colin McMillan, said that Canadians need timely access to medical services and the private sector could act as a "safety valve" to keep waiting times down.

Michael McBane, co-ordinator for the Canadian Health Coalition, countered this by saying that the paper's recommendations would create a "dual practice" system which would allow doctors to bill the public system and work in the private sector on the side.

McBane said in a statement: "In most places across Canada, that's illegal. If we allowed doctors to have a dual practice, there would be no incentive for them to fix the public system. Doctors working in the private sector would find it profitable to sabotage the public system to drive business to their private firms. That's a conflict of interest."

In early 2007, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, announced a reduction in waiting times for those living in rural areas. However, critics argued that the deal renaged on Harperís election promise to guarantee wait times in five key medical areas. In reality, rural provinces can choose only one procedure to guarantee by 2010.

Quebec currently offers a private-sector option on a limited basis, largely because of a 2005 Supreme Court ruling. Dr Jacques Chaoulli, an advocate of private-for-profit hospitals and clinics, supported the decision that removed Quebec's existing ban on private health insurance for private care. The ruling now allows patients to use private care when faced with unreasonable delays.

In Canada, prescription drugs as a proportion of total health spending have doubled from seven per cent in 1986 to approximately 14.2 per cent in 2006. Also, around 3.5m Canadians are either uninsured or underinsured for prescription drug costs. The CMA says there is a need to provide coverage for a growing list of  orphan drugs for rare diseases.

31st July 2007

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