Open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada

    OTTAWA, Aug. 13 /CNW Telbec/ -

    The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
    Prime Minister of Canada
    Office of the Prime Minister
    80 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

    Dear Prime Minister:

    On August 1, 2007, Ms. Doris Grinspun of the Registered Nurses
    Association of Ontario wrote to you in regards to the Canadian Medical
    Association's (CMA) Medicare Plus policy statement on the future of
    health care in Canada. I am writing to both clarify the CMA's position
    and correct the inaccuracies in Ms. Grinspun's letter.

    First, Ms. Grinspun entirely misconstrues the essence of our policy
    statement by suggesting that the CMA is calling for a two-tier health-
    care system. Quite the contrary, the CMA reaffirmed our commitment to the
    principle that access to care should be based on need and not the ability
    to pay. Medicare must remain universal and equitable. For several years
    now, we have called for evidence-based benchmarks to timely access to
    care backed by a publicly-funded wait time guarantee. The $612-million
    Patient Wait Times Guarantee Trust announced by your government in the
    2007 federal budget is a positive first step. In light of the Chaoulli
    decision, however, the CMA believes that when all publicly-funded options
    have run out, Canadians should have access to private insurance.

    Second, Ms. Grinspun's general observation that physicians have the
    choice of opting out of provincial Medicare plans is not true in her own
    province of Ontario. She should know that The Commitment to the Future of
    Medicare Act 2004 specifically prohibits any further opting out by
    Ontario physicians. This puts them in a unique position compared to their
    colleagues across the country.

    Third, I expect that you are already aware that one of the three sites
    participating in the Alberta Hip and Knee Replacement Pilot Project to
    which Ms. Grinspun refers that has shown such remarkable success in
    reducing wait times for hip and knee replacement is the privately owned
    Health Resource Centre (HRC) in Calgary. HRC is non-unionized and meets
    higher regulatory standards than the public system. It is an excellent
    example of publicly funded, privately delivered health care and warrants
    positive consideration by other government across Canada.

    In closing, let me assure you that despite letters and newspaper
    headlines that suggest the opposite, the CMA remains firmly committed to
    the principles of Medicare and continues to be a forceful advocate for a
    strong, publicly-funded health care system in Canada.


    Colin J. McMillan, MD, CM, FRCPC, FACP

    cc:: Dr. Mary Ferguson-Paré, President, Registered Nurses' Association of
         Ms. Doris Grinspun, Executive Director, Registered Nurses'
         Association of Ontario
         Dr. Marlene Smadu, President Canadian Nurses Association
         Hon. Tony Clement, Minister of Health
         Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
         Hon. George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long Term Care,

For further information:

For further information: Lucie Boileau, Media Manager, (613) 731-8610,
ext 1266

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