Media Release



Second-class health care for immigrants, seniors?

January 2, 2006


A recent article by a senior National Post editor represents a dangerous and deplorable attack on the principle of equal access to health care.

Jonathan Kay, the Post’s Managing Editor, Comments, makes an undisguised pitch for special treatment for the affluent. Describing his annoyance at having to sit in an emergency department waiting room alongside “surly immigrants and delirious seniors”, he beats the drums for the creation of private emergency rooms in which “middle class people like me could pay for prompt treatment” rather than have to wait their turn to be seen. If there were private emergency departments, he says, then “people with some money to spare would plunk down their Visa cards and get fast dignified service.”

Kay’s shameless pitch for better health care for the well-off, and his disdain for immigrants, seniors, and those too poor to “plunk down their Visa cards” are contemptible, but more than that, they are dangerous, because they mark a relentless propaganda campaign being waged by the opponents of public health care. For example, Kay’s pro-privatization tirade was instantly picked up and posted on the Web site of the British Columbia Medical Association. British Columbia saw a recent attempt — squelched by the Campbell government — to launch private emergency clinics in contravention of the Canada Health Act.

In their PR materials, the proponents of the private clinics like to pretend that such clinics would take pressure off the public system. This is clearly false. Health care is provided by doctors, nurses, and technicians. Private clinics don’t add a single new doctor, nurse, or technician to the system: they recruit their staff away from the public system. Each doctor or nurse hired by a private clinic is one who is no longer providing care to the people who use the public system. The inevitable result is that the ability of the public system to provide care is progressively undermined.

The affluent proponents of private clinics are well aware of this. Their concern is to get faster care for themselves. They don't care what happens to those who are unable to afford the fees charged by the private clinics.

Those who advocate for immigrants, seniors, and the poor need to be aware of this continuing campaign against public health care, and of the very real threat that it poses. We need to speak out, and keep speaking out, for public health care.

A reply to Jonathan Kay's article appears on the Radical Digressions blog at

For more information:
Ulli Diemer

Note: Jonathan Kay's article originally appeared in the National Post on December 6, 2006. It is available online on the Web site of the British Columbia Medical Association,

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