Nurses say court challenge threatens access to health care for all Ontarians

    TORONTO, Sept. 5 /CNW/ - An Alberta-based group's Charter challenge
threatens Canada's universal health-care system says the Registered Nurses'
Association of Ontario (RNAO).
    RNAO is concerned about the Canadian Constitution Foundation's challenge
to the Ontario government on timely access to health care and patients'
ability to buy private health insurance. RNAO President Mary Ferguson-Pare
says the foundation wants us to believe that private insurance will make the
health-care system more responsive to patients' needs, but that's a flawed
    "It will do exactly the opposite. The minute you introduce private
insurance into our system, you create two classes of patients. And the results
are obvious. Those who can afford it jump to the front of the queue while the
majority who can not afford it wait in line. This is two-tier health care. It
is unjust and would lead to the destabilization of our health-care system,"
says Ferguson-Pare.
    Ferguson-Pare adds there is plenty of evidence from other countries that
shows that parallel, private insurance systems actually reduce cost
efficiency, increase overall wait times, and result in more complications and
deaths. She says there are better ways of easing wait lists and addressing the
concerns of patients who feel they are not getting the timely care they
deserve. "There are many things we can do including easing the shortage of
nurses and doctors, and allowing all health-care professionals to work to
their full scope of practice. In fact, already there are numerous examples
across Canada in which not-for-profit, specialized clinics are reducing wait
times for hip, knee and cataract surgeries. We need to build on those success
stories," says Ferguson-Pare. RNAO also says more investment in technologies
such as electronic health records will make the system more efficient and
effective, and will lead to better-managed wait lists.
    "People in Ontario should be wary of the Canadian Constitution Foundation
and its two-tier agenda," says Doris Grinspun, Executive Director of RNAO.
"Private insurers will 'skim' the more profitable patients and leave the
public system with chronic and catastrophic care. Anyone who is less than
healthy and/or less than wealthy will receive compromised access to
health-care services in a for-profit insurance market," adds Grinspun. RNAO
says the Canadian Medical Association's own poll showed that 58 per cent of
physicians felt that most of their patients would either not qualify or be
unable to afford private insurance.
    "Our Medicare system was founded because people could not afford medical
care. We have been there and we are not going back," adds Grinspun. "Ontarians
do not want a system that discriminates against people on the basis of how big
their wallet is. Ontarians want a system that provides people of all economic
backgrounds with the health care they need and deserve whether they suffer
traumatic injury resulting from a car accident, a heart attack or a chronic
illness," Grinspun says.
    RNAO says nurses are united in their interest to protect the public by
strengthening and expanding Medicare for all Canadians and will fight
physicians who use patients to advance their privatization agendas. "We will
continue to build on the public's values and make the public system even more
responsive, efficient and accountable to Canadians. Now is the time to
accelerate the positive reforms that are taking root across the country and
here in Ontario. These reforms are strengthening public hospitals and
community health, improving access to pharmaceutical drugs, and increasing
healthy living standards," adds Ferguson-Pare.

    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,
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, Phone: (416) 599-1925,
1-800-268-7199 ext. 209, (647) 406-5605 (cellular)

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