Private surgical centres are an essential relief valve for our overburdened public health care system. To see how, let's follow the case of 82-year-old Mrs. Green from Vancouver. She needs knee surgery and has been on an orthopaedic surgeon's waitlist for over two years. In our rationed health care system, her surgeon is "allowed" only six hours of operating room time per week, and he has 129 people on his list ahead of Mrs. Green.(The LTE was in response to this article in which the head of the Canadian Medical Association advocated a "mixed" public-private system.)
In desperation, she contacts us. Two weeks later, Mrs. Green gets her new knee, in Quebec. Her surgeon there, Dr. Jones, operates at a public hospital but has used up all of his allotted time in the public system. But happily, he also operates in a private Quebec surgical centre every week, after completing his time "quota" in the public hospital. The extra money he earns for this work keeps him from moving to the United States.
When Mrs. Green travelled to Quebec for her new knee, Mrs. Brown moved up one slot on the public waitlist and will get her surgery a week earlier.
To summarize, by being able to operate in a private surgical centre as well as a public hospital, Dr. Jones has the incentive to stay in Canada, Mrs. Green has cut her wait time down to two weeks from 51 and Mrs. Brown will get her surgery in the public system one week sooner.
What part of this scenario do the apologists for our Canadian public health care system not understand?
Rick Baker, Timely Medical Alternatives Inc., Vancouver.
Here's more information about Rick Baker's service. Were it not for the small amount of private medicine permitted in Canada, things would be much worse for Canadian citizens, who would otherwise be forced to rely on the state-run medical system for their care.
It's eerily reminiscent of the small private farms in the former USSR which only occupied 3% of the land compared to the state-run collective farms, but produced over 25% of the crops.