It’s a sad day for health care in British Columbia as Doctor Profit (Brian Day) was elected president of the Doctors of B.C. When the ballots were counted up, Dr. Day won by a single vote (Dr. Alan Ruddiman, a rural family physician in Oliver, garnered just one vote less — 945 — and Dr. Lloyd Oppel, an emergency medicine physician at the University of B.C. Hospital, got 285 votes).
Yes, that Brian Day who is using the courts to try to force in an American-style, pay-to-the-front-of-the-line, two-tiered health care for Canada; and whose clinic was found (during a period of less than 30 days) to have unlawfully billed nearly $500,000 to patients and the B.C. health-care system. For more information on the contemptible case and the huge negative implications it could have on the health of ordinary Canadians please see here.
While it is disturbing that he would choose to run while there is an active court case happening with the government to bring in more private health care in B.C., it is quite clear that Dr. Day will stop at nothing in order to push his profiteering agenda. Make no mistake, it is all about profit and money. This run for president is about influencing the political landscape to privatize medicare and the result of the ongoing court case.
It further disappointing that only 1,976 doctors took the time to vote (less than 20 per cent of the doctors eligible to vote) at a time when B.C. stands to lose $5 billion dollars in health-care funding with the Harper government refusing to negotiate a new health accord. The self-interest and egotism among B.C. doctors is clear today: to increase their high wages (the average full-time family doctors’s salary in B.C. is about $120,000) and autonomy to earn profit at the expense of improving the public health care system and the people who rely on it daily. The doctors in B.C. — who could be bothered to come out and vote — have chosen to prioritize boutique care for the wealthiest and not the wellbeing of the public.
Maybe we should not be surprised though. While Canadians have the tendency to deify doctors, historically it has often been the case that doctors are against expanding more equitable health care if it affects their profits. For example, on July 1, 1962, it was Saskatchewan’s doctors who went on strike and were the largest obstacle against the new universal public health system being brought in by the Tommy Douglas government.
To be fair, this is not to say that all doctors are greedy or without conscience. Groups like Canadian Doctors for Medicare and their members continue to put patients’ wellbeing and the universal public health system in front of austerity hysteria and two-tiered profiteering. Further, a one vote margin of victory is not a clear mandate to force an American-style health-care system on the people of B.C.
With all this being said, there may be a silver lining in the cloud. It has always been ordinary Canadians who have been the vanguard of our public health system and the ones who have brought about change. Undeniably, it was regular Canadians who demanded our medicare system in the first place and applied the political pressure to make it a reality. Now it falls upon us once again to protect, strengthen and expand our public medicare system. Canadians know that our health care MUST be based on need, not the ability to pay.