“Medicare did not fall from the sky”: expert
On June 27, the Canadian Health Coalition marked 60 years of Medicare with a webinar that explored the fascinating history of the origins of Medicare and what is being done today to make the dream of universal health care a reality in Canada. Medicare was first established in Saskatchewan on July 1, 1962 and within a decade, it had spread across Canada.
The conversation was hosted by the Canadian Health Coalition’s Anne Lagacé Dowson and featured speakers Nicole O’Byrne, an associate professor of law at the University of New Brunswick, and Pauline Worsfold, RN, the chairperson of the Canadian Health Coalition. The webinar is now available for viewing here.
“Medicare did not fall from the sky. It came out of decades of struggle. It came out of people going bankrupt because they could not afford health care.”NICOLE O’BYRNE
O’Byrne opened her talk by describing how Canada’s father of Medicare Tommy Douglas experienced a bone infection as a child and had to undergo a number of surgeries. Fortunately for Douglas, an orthopedic surgeon agreed to treat him for free as long as medical students were allowed to observe the operation. Douglas’ leg, which was under threat of amputation, was eventually saved by the surgeries. Douglas never forgot that experience, which inspired him to fight for free health care for everyone.
O’Byrne’s talk featured archival material including editorial cartoons of the early days of Medicare, which depict in lively form the two opposing sides of the Medicare debate.
“Medicare did not fall from the sky. It came out of decades of struggle. It came out of people going bankrupt because they could not afford health care,” said O’Byrne.
While creeping privatization of health care and lack of enforcement of the Canada Health Act continue to pervade Canada’s health care system, the chair of Canada’s national voice for public health care said she is optimistic.
Worsfold said, “I really truly feel optimistic that we are on the precipice of getting something big and what I am talking about is a national drug plan, a pharmacare plan, for everybody who lives in Canada.”
Worsfold noted the cost savings of implementing a pharmacare plan, which is estimated to be up to $11 million to the health care system.
“Just imagine $11 billion in savings and what we could do with that in the health care system,” said Worsfold.
“We could create more long-term care beds, not for profit. Get the profit out there right now. Let’s just put that on the table. We could have more home care visits. We could create more infrastructure to support people staying in their homes rather than having to access the health care system. We could have more mental health supports,” said Worsfold.
“As a registered nurse for 41 years, I’ve seen everything. I’ve seen improvements. I’ve seen successes. I’ve seen failures and the people that suffer are the patients. And these days because of the pandemic, the people in the system, whether it’s registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, psychiatric nurses, physicians, lab techs, x-rays techs,… everybody in the system right now is suffering,” said Worsfold who reiterated that Canada needs to invest in universal public health care.
Worsfold will be taking that message to the Council of Federation meeting of the Premiers in Victoria in July.
Worsfold agreed with O’Byrne that Canada needs to provide stable and predictable funding for health care. She added that the provinces need to adhere to strict reporting mechanisms when it comes to spending health care dollars.
“They can’t just go out and buy lawnmowers. It needs to go to direct patient care, the programs that support direct patient care and the people who deliver those programs,” said Worsfold.
Watch for more webinars by the Canadian Health Coalition in the future. To suggest a webinar topic, email Tracy Glynn at email@example.com.