Stephen Duckett is Director, Health Program at the Grattan Institute, Australia, an expert adviser with EvidenceNetwork.ca and the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Alberta Health Services
If you look at an old map of Canadian healthcare policy, just near Privatization Island is a big warning: “Here be dragons.” So it proved for Alberta Health Services recently when a seemingly innocuous decision -- to swap the tender for laboratory services from a United States-based transnational corporation to an Australian one -- provoked a furore fueled by discontent.
Part of the problem is that ‘privatization’ has two meanings. One refers to an increase in the private funding of healthcare. In the Canadian context that is unequivocally bad. It breaks the compact between Canadians that they are all in the same boat in terms of access to healthcare and strikes at one of the key differences between the U.S. and Canada. On one side of the border, people can sleep easy knowing they are protected against the costs of healthcare if something goes wrong for them or their family. On the southern side, the spectre of bankruptcy or no care looms, even in the post-Obamacare world.
But Alberta’s controversy over lab contracts is about a different sort of privatization. It is about who delivers care within the publically funded system. ...continue reading