Nurses invite Dr. Brian Day to a public debate on health care

    TORONTO, Oct. 12 /CNW/ - Nurses and health-care advocates today called
for an open debate with Canada's physicians to discuss ways to improve the
health-care system for all Canadians, not just those with the thickest
    In advance of a speech by Dr. Brian Day - President of the Canadian
Medical Association and the founder of a private surgical facility in British
Columbia - the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO), the Ontario
Coalition of Senior Citizens' Organizations and the Ontario Health Coalition
offered publicly funded solutions to improve care. They include: using all
health professionals to their full potential; building stronger community
services; making full use of diagnostic equipment; and dedicating staff to
specialized teams for surgical procedures.
    The groups, representing tens of thousands of people in the province,
including registered nurses, seniors and more than 400 grassroots community
organizations, are sounding the alarm bell because Dr. Day has frequently
advocated private health insurance and has spoken out in favour of a market
model to fund hospitals as a way to shorten wait lists. Dr. Day's advocacy for
health-care's privatization has been backed up by the CMA which, this summer,
called for increased use of private clinics and for physicians to be allowed
to practice simultaneously in both the public and private health-care systems.
    RNAO's President, Mary Ferguson-Pare, says that Dr. Day's and the CMA's
ideas are dangerous for the system because private insurance inevitably
creates one line of people who can afford to pay for care, and another for
those who can't. And funding hospitals based on the number of procedures
performed ignores evidence from British doctors who have pointed out that this
system can lead to the cancellation of services that aren't profitable,
including those for children.
    "Nurses are appalled that the Canadian Medical Association is advocating
these ideas," says RNAO Executive Director Doris Grinspun. "We want to work
with our physician colleagues to strengthen Medicare, not to dismantle it. We
have found ways to improve access to care for everyone - not just those who
can afford to pay - and we have to keep working towards this. That's why I'm
calling on Dr. Day to speak with me in an honest public debate on this topic,"
she adds.
    RNAO was supported today by others in the health-care community who want
to see the system remain publicly funded. That includes Dr. Robert Bell,
President and CEO of Toronto's University Health Network and an orthopedic
surgeon. "Strong publicly funded health care is a crucial element of Canada's
economic competitiveness and social cohesion," he says.
    There is plenty of evidence that proves health-care challenges can be
solved within the public, not-for-profit health system. That includes
Toronto's Kensington Eye Institute, which performs cataract surgeries. This
specialized clinic helped decrease wait times for those surgeries by 58 per
cent in less than two years. Clinics like these both reduce wait times and
free up hospital space for more complex eye surgeries. That's the evidence
Natalie Mehra, Director of the Ontario Health Coalition, says policy makers
must rely on.
    "There is no connection between the privatization championed by Brian Day
and improved access to care. In fact, Dr. Day's proposals for hospital funding
and for privatization simply benefit his own private business interests and
dismantle public health coverage for all Canadians," Mehra says. "Why should a
wealthy person get knee surgery before a middle-class person with a more
urgent case?"
    Bea Levis, a member of the Ontario Coalition of Senior Citizens'
Organizations, agrees, remembering a time when those without money did have to
wait for care. "The older generation has had a taste of for-profit care, and
it led to a lot of misery and inability to get the care that was needed," she
says. "We don't want to go back to those days."
    "We are unified in our interest to protect the public by strengthening
and expanding Medicare for all Canadians. We will continue to build on the
public's values and make the public system even more responsive, efficient and
accountable to Canadians," says Ferguson-Pare. "Now is the time to accelerate
the positive reforms that are taking root across the nation, and right here in
Ontario, to serve the needs of all Ontarians, not just those who can pay."
    The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional
association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario.
Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in
nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care
system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.

For further information:

For further information: Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO,
Phone: (416) 599-1925, 1-800-268-7199 ext. 209, Cell: (647) 406-5605; Jill
Scarrow, Communications Officer, RNAO, Phone: (416) 599-1925, 1-800-268-7199
ext. 210, E-mail:

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