Re: Millions have no family doctor

That 3.6 million Canadians do not have a family doctor is a national disgrace, one that could have been avoided if politicians and health authorities had been listening to the public.

June 18, 2004

As national opinion polls have discovered, Canadians often feel intimidated in their dealings with physicians, and feel that the doctors aren’t accountable to them. A medical system in which patients could assert their rights as consumers would tend to empower them in their dealings with doctors. For this reason, most Canadians believe that a publicly funded medicare system that gave each Canadian a generous health allowance with which they could buy their medical services would improve the doctor-patient relationship. Such systems exist in various jurisdictions around the world, with great success.

Yet our federal government’s Romanow Commission, along with other government bodies, decided to ignore this desire of Canadians, contributing to today’s deplorable results. Because so many Canadians don’t have family doctors, they overuse the emergency rooms of hospitals, driving up health care costs for the entire society and depriving Canadians of the services the most vulnerable among us need.

Your article noted that those lacking a doctor tend to be younger Canadians. The polling explains why. Younger people are likelier to be intimidated in dealing with a doctor. For this reason , younger Canadians had the strongest desire for a publicly funded health allowance system: 64% felt that “Because we would be paying our doctors directly, the health allowance system would make my doctor more accountable to me, and foster a more professional and personal relationship between us.

When our health care authorities start listening to the desires of Canadians, and trusting us to spend our own health care allowance, we’ll have a publicly funded system that uses medical dollars prudently, and that can afford to provide home care and other additional public funded services that we deserve.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Urban Renaissance Institute and policy director at Consumer Policy Institute, divisions of Toronto-based Energy Probe Research Foundation.

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About Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada's leading environmentalists. His book, The Conserver Solution (Doubleday) popularized the Conserver Society concept in the late 1970s and became the manual for those interested in incorporating environmental factors into economic life. An advisor to President Jimmy Carter's Task Force on the Global Environment (the Global 2000 Report) in the late 1970's, he has since been at the forefront of movements to reform foreign aid, stop nuclear power expansion and adopt toll roads. Mr. Solomon is a founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and the executive director of its Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute divisions. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the editor and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, and the author or co-author of seven books, most recently The Deniers, a #1 environmental best-seller in both Canada and the U.S. .

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