Forum focuses on health-care solutions

Andrew Robinson
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Faults cited at federal, provincial levels

St. John’s East MP Jack Harris was the moderator for Thursday evening’s public forum in St. John’s on health care. Seated next to him is federal NDP health critic Libby Davies.
— Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram

Through almost two hours of discussion focused on what ails the health-care system, one common claim stood out — the system needs to change.

Linked to NDP caucus meetings held in St. John’s this week, the official opposition in Ottawa hosted a public forum on health care Thursday evening in St. John’s looking at the system’s future in Canada.

According to NDP health critic Libby Davies, her party’s goal is to make sure Canadians’ priorities are also government priorities when it comes to health care. In her estimation, the governing Conservative Party is not doing its job on that front.

“There are threats to our public health-care system,” she said.

“There are very strong forces at work that would love to see what we have privatized ... and sometimes there’s information that tries to convince people that our health-care system is not sustainable, that it’s not affordable, and that somehow we just can’t manage to get by.”

Davies bemoaned the new deal on health transfer payments offered by the federal government to the provinces, which proposes a per capita funding arrangement. Premier Kathy Dunderdale has been among those Canadian premiers to criticize the deal offered by Ottawa.

Some who attended Thursday’s forum appeared to be in agreement with the claim that the health-care system as it exists cannot be sustained.

One man suggested throwing more money at a system that does not work makes little sense, while several others suggested that prevention measures need to be looked at more closely, particularly with regards what people eat.

Davies earlier noted the federal government, at times, sides with industry rather than public health, pointing to government’s reluctance to deal with sodium content and trans fat in food.

Kathleen Connors, a retired nurse who chairs the Canadian Health Coalition, said funding between Ottawa and the provinces should be split 50-50 instead of the current arrangement, which sees the federal government cover approximately 29 per cent of health-care costs.

She also stressed the importance of a national pharmacare program, suggesting it could actually save billions of dollars for government.

Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association president Tony Gabriel said while the new deal offered by the federal government is not good news, he said it has brought the provinces closer together and appears to be opening doors for collaboration and sharing ideas on how to best provide those services.

Among other issues brought up Thursday were the need for strategies to deal with the growing presence of autism and more support for home care.

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Conservative Party, Canadian Health Coalition, Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada.According

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