Canada is crawling into a slow-motion crisis in health care — with corporations ready to profit from the problems — speakers at a town hall forum said Thursday.
That crisis is triggered by the Harper government’s announcement in 2011 that it will tie health transfers to provinces at the rate of the gross domestic product, at a minimum of three per cent.
That three per cent contrasts with growth in transfers of six per cent annually in the past decade. The current health care accord between the federal government and provinces is due to expire in 2014.
“That’s $36 billion less in health care,” said Donisa Bernardo, a director with Hospital Employees Union.
“It will cut the federal share from 20 per cent down to 18 per cent.”
In that shortage, private insurers and companies are ready to step in — something that will drive up costs, said Colleen Fuller, a policy consultant with Canadian Doctors for Health Care.
Fuller said the percentage of public money in health care has shrunk from more than 75 per cent three decades ago to 69 per cent today.
Those companies require administrators and profits, driving up costs for citizens, speakers said.
About 100 people attended the forum at Parkside Lounge Thursday evening.
Rick Turner, who heads B.C. Health Coalition, estimated the gradual reduction of growth in health care transfers from the province will result in a loss of $137 million to Interior Health Authority alone.
That equates to six million hours of care aide work to help elderly people stay at home, he said.
Turner also noted NHLer Mark Recchi’s leadership to raise $3 million for the new intensive care unit here several years ago is a fraction of the money that will be lost annually in Kamloops with the reductions to the provinces.
While speakers said Ottawa must provide more money, and set standards, one audience member said government has to spend smarter.
“There’s only a finite money that can come out of government,” said Alan Robinson. “When do we stop wasting money and spend money wisely?”
Robinson said wise spending is on preventative care and home support, rather than acute care.
But NDP health critic Judy Darcy, one of four panelists, said governments in general find it easlier to spend money on hospitals and doctors.
“If I can be crass, announcing hospitals before elections is very popular thing to do.
“It’s not nearly as popular to say ‘we need to make investments in home support, residential support and community health centres.’”
Fuller said the federal government needs to do more than simply transfer additional money to the provinces. It needs to set standards and target funding.
“If they dedicate money to specific areas, it will go to specific areas. . . . It’s not just federal dollars. We need federal leadership in health care.”