The Privatization of Health Care in Canada

The Canadian health care system is notable for its public funding and availability to everyone, which has its benefits. However, it also limits the system’s resources and the patient’s choice, being an unfortunate price to pay. By expanding the private sector, the underlined issues can be resolved without damaging the core principles. Successful examples of how privatization can contribute to health care already exist, strengthening the point that it is necessary.

Private health care resolves such persistent issues as long waiting lists. They have been a controversial subject, leading to a court case in 2005 concerning a delayed surgery, which was eventually resolved by the private sector’s means (Alflayyeh, 2017). The wait could potentially be the reason Canada had a higher mortality rate than in similarly structured European countries, amounting to 4.3 per 1000 deaths as of 2014 (Alflayyeh, 2017). It is still slightly lower than in the United States by 1.5, but adopting the US health care system elements will not necessarily aggravate the issue (Alflayyeh, 2017). The neighboring country has many factors affecting its infant mortality and life expectancy, the latter of which is three years below Canada’s, so the same threats may not translate (Alflayyeh, 2017). One of the ways to address the waiting list issue is to allow high-income households to access the private system exclusively. It would ease the budget burden, optimize the queues, and increase the number of available shared hospital rooms, which is behind the US by 0.16 (Alflayyeh, 2017). Thus, a general population member will have better availability of health care.

The question is why the affluent class would agree to be removed from the Medicare system, considering its benefits. First of all, they will have private rooms in hospitals containing the necessary equipment. While it may be subject to controversy, it is also a potential incentive for people to pursue an additional option, as not everyone is comfortable staying in shared rooms. A similar service exists in the US, which is not entirely privately funded, and the aspect of convenience is one of the selling points of privatization (Alflayyeh, 2017). Another essential matter is the doctor’s choice, which is one of the challenges the health care system faces. Every Canadian family has an assigned physician, whose task is to perform regular check-ups and refer a person to specialists if something is beyond their competence (de Mello Brandão, 2019). A household cannot simply appeal for the care provider’s removal unless they are legally responsible (de Mello Brandão, 2019). Under the private system, choosing a physician, other medical staff, including nurses, and a hospital room will improve the patient-doctor relationship, which is a significant factor in health outcomes.

Health care workers also feel that privatization partially removes some of their concerns. For example, midwives from Ontario faced discrimination from the provincial governments regarding their funding in 2018 (Spring, 2020). The situation was critical, considering the profession’s importance and direct impact on infant mortality (Spring, 2020). The potential solution involved privatization, as it was difficult to address the goal of decreasing public spending while maintaining the same quality of care otherwise (Spring, 2020). As a result, adopting elements of private health care allowed the midwives to receive proper payment and upgrade their facilities, aiming for a better quality of child delivery (Spring, 2020). The case is ongoing, and not everyone has received the necessary support, but if the infant mortality rates improve, it will likely be a reflection of the initiative’s success. As for doctors, they suffer from big influxes of patients, so they have to limit appointments for a single person (Babony, 2019). It substantially lowers the care quality, while private specialists can have adequate time for those requiring their service (Babony, 2019). Thus, partially privatizing health care will be beneficial for both sectors, easing the public burden.

Privatization also plays a significant role in facilitating competition in health care, indirectly impacting the government-funded space. For instance, the construction of a private complex in Ontario prompted the council to direct the resources into its alternative (Armstrong & Baines, 2021). The initiative later proved sustainable and started offering more services than expected, covering almost all demographics compared to the original plan of targeting senior citizens only (Armstrong & Baines, 2021). The example demonstrates that despite the opposition to privatization, it still manages to positively influence the health care system and leads to quality improvement decisions. The market-like competition in moderate amounts can genuinely facilitate better care provision in the fields traditionally covered by the public.

To reiterate the main points, privatization is a positive campaign for both patients and health care workers. The former will be able to stay in a private room and choose a doctor, which is beneficial for their relationships with medical specialists. Meanwhile, the latter could perform their functions properly without worrying about budget constraints and have an opportunity to upgrade their facilities, leading to better care provision quality. Even the opposition to privatization may bear its fruits and promote quality improvements.

References

Alflayyeh, S. (2017) The privatization of healthcare in selected first-world countries and its implications in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia: A descriptive-comparative study. Majmaah Journal of Health Sciences, 5(2), 113-127. Web.

Armstrong, P., & Baines, D. (2021). Privatization, hybridization and resistance in contemporary health work. In D. Baines & I. Cunningham (Eds.), Working in the context of austerity: Challenges and struggles (pp. 97-108). Bristol University Press.

Babony, A. (2019). Privatization and the future of Canadian healthcare. Global Health: Annual Review, 1(4), 14-16. Web.

de Mello Brandão, J. R. (2019). Primary health care in Canada: current reality and challenges. Cadernos de Saúde Pública, 35(1), e00178217. Web.

Spring, C. (2020). Call the midwife: Privatization and health care reform in an era of constrained public spending. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 32(2), 358-382. Web.