Lobby MPs to move healthcare to National Capital Region jurisdiction
At the recent NDP Convention in Ottawa, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh proposed to extend universal healthcare to cover prescription drugs and dental care – laudable goals, but it is unclear how this would be funded. However, before attempting this, he should concentrate on improving existing healthcare coverage for all Canadian patients.
He acknowledged that the provision of care had eroded to a “patchwork” of uneven services across Canada and stated that “Universal healthcare is the tool to combat inequality.”
This does not just apply to Indigenous communities, low-income persons in inner cities, persons living in remote areas, etc. All federal politicians for over three decades have ignored the fact that all Quebec residents are “second-class citizens” when they seek medical services in another part of Canada. Quebec has refused to obey the portability provisions of the Canada Health Act, and as a result, few out-of-province MDs will accept a Quebec medicare card. This affects Quebecers who become unexpectedly ill elsewhere in Canada on business or vacation or those who need to see an MD during the first three months after a permanent move to another province. It particularly affects West Quebec patients who seek medical care in Ottawa in part due to a shortage of physicians in their own region. Recently, a woman from Gatineau with severe influenza visited the Montfort Hospital in Ottawa, two hospitals in Gatineau, and sadly died at the Ottawa Heart Institute. This underscores that the National Capital Region is one community, and its residents should have unimpeded access to hospitals and physicians on both sides of the river.
I have urged Andrew Scheer in several of my previous articles to introduce legislation setting up a mechanism for Ottawa to pay physicians directly for treatment of all out-of-province patients. Surely Jagmeet Singh would support at last giving Quebecers the fully portable medical benefits enjoyed by other Canadians. Hopefully, the Liberal Party would eventually join in this move to promote equality and national unity.
I encourage West Quebec residents to intensively lobby their MPs so that this problem will finally be solved after over 30 years. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Charles S. Shaver, MD
Ottawa physician Dr Charles Shaver was born in Montreal. He is Chair of the Ontario Medical Association Section on General Internal Medicine.