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Public health care solutions better way to address wait time problems – key message at National Wait Times Roundtable

The Canadian Health Coalition held a Wait Times Roundtable in Ottawa, partly sponsored by CUPE. Attendees heard arguments for public health care solutions instead of wait time promises that would serve to further privatization. Fred Muzin, president of the Hospital Employees Union (HEU), the health care division of CUPE in BC, and CUPE national research staff Cathy Remus and Heather Farrow attended.

Academics, physicians and federal policy advisors explained that reform within the public health care system is the best way to reduce wait times. Dr. Michael Rachlis, University of Toronto, argued that facilities must increase their hours of operations to manage wait lists better. He said better coordination and flow could reduce wait times. Additional staff would be required if his reforms were implemented.

Speakers argued for a move away from a physician-based culture. Full scope of practice for health care workers also reduces public health care wait times – an important point for CUPE practical nurses.

Public health care specialization in clinics was advocated. The Queensway Clinic in Toronto, the Pan-Am Clinic in Winnipeg and Ontario’s Sault Ste. Marie breast health centre are public examples where wait lists are short.

Prevention and attention to the social determinants of health or social services was stressed. A public home care and pharmacare program would go a long way to address health care wait lists.

The one-day conference was called “Wait times: the facts, the politics and the solutions” held January 16, 2006.