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Harper promises guaranteed wait times for health services

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper in Winnipeg, Friday.
A Conservative government would establish and enforce guaranteed wait times for health-care services, Stephen Harper said on Friday.

He also moved to counter his critics by denying he intends to damage public medicare. "There will be no private, parallel system," Harper told a campaign rally in Winnipeg.

The provinces and the federal government would gather to establish waiting times for various services, and would guarantee that they will be adhered to. "We will reduce waiting times; we will hold governments accountable," he said.

Harper's plan would allow patients to go to other provinces to get services their own province can't provide within the limits.

Your letters:

I think Mr. Harper missed the mark when he proposed paying for out-of-province medical treatment to reduce wait times. Will the new Conservative government pay for transportation, lodging and other travel expenses for the individual who �chooses� to receive health care outside their home province?

Will they pay travel expenses for care providers, like family members or private nurses, if an individual is too ill to travel alone? I imagine not!

The problem with this idea is that it creates a system where people who can afford to take time away from work and travel will get medical attention. As for the rest of us average Canadians, who can�t afford to take one of Mr. Harper�s proposed out-of-province �medical vacations�, well we�d still be stuck at home waiting for treatment at our local under-staffed, under-funded medical facilities.

Sick people shouldn�t have to leave their community and their network of supportive family and friends to seek treatment! We need to improve health services at the community level, rather than shuttling the sick out of province.


Harper promises guaranteed wait times - I'm pretty sure that Harper and his team are full aware that this promise is campaign-speak. This is a topic that has been tackled for ages and it is extremely difficult to fix.

You can throw more money in to try to reduce wait times, but this would mean you would need more doctors. Where will we get those doctors? Foreign trained doctors go through rigorous screening and re-training. Yes, this is an important step, but seeing as this is a major bottleneck for improving health care, perhaps someone should be promising to increase the number of doctors.

Personally I'd rather pay my GST or my income tax and have health care available to me when I need it, rather than taking those tax cuts and buying private insurance.

They can preach Medicare all they want, but the truth is, if it doesn't get some major attention and reform, it'll be coming out of all of our pockets and it will cost a hell of a lot more than $400 for a family of four.

—Shannon Reynolds

No sooner did the Conservatives state that they will reduce wait times and that he has no plans for a parallel system, then Martin brings up at the CAW the spectre of Harper the "scary bogeyman" who is destined to ruin the system.

This constant Liberal fear-mongering shows me as a voter one thing: the Liberals have nothing new to show or tell us. Instead, the Liberals' strategy again is to demonize their opponents with a hope of scaring voters into their camp as it is easier to distract people away from their scandalous record.

—Sebastian Thorp | Calgary

I am glad to hear that Stephen Harper says that "There will be no private, parallel system". Does this mean that he will close the Private clinics in B.C. and Quebec. I would like to hear him commit to that. Then I will believe him.

It would have been even better if Paul Martin had promised the NDP that he would just freeze the growth of these private medical clinics. Then we would not be in an election in the first place.

—Mark Vining

As a health care professional I find Mr. Harper�s pledge for guaranteed wait times both ludicrous and expensive. Whatever happened to continuity of care? Some surgeons and hospitals have longer wait lists based purely on expertise and/or experience.

How is it better to be transferred to a surgeon or institution of lesser capabilities purely because of their shorter wait lists?

I don�t even want to think of the cost or logistics of transferring patients from one province to another just to have tests or procedures that are readily available in their own area.

Although this notion sounds ideal it is not in the REAL interests of all Canadians.

—Dr. David M. Dodge | Moncton, New Brunswick

Stephen Harper obviously has no idea how the health care system works in this country. Surely if it were as simple as legislating wait times, we would have already done that!

The central problem with health care is, as Tommy Douglas put it, that we run around to all these different people with different backlogs to get our needs taken care of. Dr. Michael Rachlis, who I just heard speak and am convinced is a genius, suggests that we move to the model of a university-style health clinic. You have all you specialists, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors all in one place and you can guarantee same-day service.

It works brilliantly, it's within the scope of the public system to handle it, and it doesn't involve privatization. There are already excellent examples of these running in Saskatoon and Toronto, among other places.

Stephen Harper's promises so far have been nothing but simplistic carrots-on-a- stick in the hope that no one in this country has any understanding of how public policy works. Maybe it'll pass for lazy arm-chair critics, and God help us if that turns out to be the majority of Canadians. In that case, we'll get the government we deserve, and we'll pay dearly for it.

—Simon Rasmussen

We all want wait times to be less, Province included, I fail to see how such legislation would get it done any faster. Ensuring adequate funding and support for implementing a better system is what would really help.

Harper seems to be blindly driving the agenda with poorly thought-out populous statements.

—Albert O'Connor | Waterloo, Ontario

I don�t really think that Stephen Harper knows what he's talking about. Wait times are long because of costs, lack of doctors, etc.

Sending people to other provinces to get health services faster would only increase the costs. Many people like me would not be able to afford traveling to other places for services. People have to wait. It�s a fact of life.

Have some gratitude that we even have free health care.

—Ryan Clarke, Sussex N.B.

I think just about every politician in the past 15 years have given their 'guarantee' or promise to reducing wait times. All the candidates want better health care, but none seems to want to go in detail on exactly how to proceed with this promise or guarantee.

Now, I don't know the details; but in Harper's plan he mentions that the would allow inter-province care. I suppose a sort of 'load balancing'. Who would pick up the cost of travels andaccommodationss if needed? The patient's family if it is a child?

I applaud Harper to be the first to really bringhealth caree to the headlines, however, it is the same tune we've all heard for the last 2 decades. What makes his proposal so different?

—Jean-Marc C | Ottawa, Ontario

None of the four leaders, aspiring/dreaming to form the next government, have the power to enforce guaranteed wait times for health care services in any of the provinces and territories.

As the delivery of health care services is under the jurisdiction of each province and territory, they can only make recommendations, or open the �totally outdated Canada Health Act� to take over the role of delivering health care services.

As the latter action is inconceivable in country such as Canada, it would be simply be best for the four leaders to refer Canadians to their respective provincial/territorial governments for solutions of the waiting times.

—S.Djamel Lounis | Kingston, Ont

I'm confused by the Conservative(& others)attitude towards parrallel health care. Where are we to get the doctors and health care workers for private clinics? Public hospitals are already in a fight to keep the staff they have - won't this just add to the staffing pressure and thus the cost of staffing our public hospitals?

How long can Government compete with for profit clinics? Costs will surely go up fast. Seems like an obvious slippery slope to a U.S. system for Canada.

—Dave Moore | St. John's

Has Steven Harper figured out how he plans to guarantee the wait time? No two cases are the same, no two doctors work the same way. Or his he planning on having a government official at the hospital to time the length of time the patient waits for treatment.

While I agree there are certain procedures that can be speeded up, there are times when it not possible to do so. If the hospital is short of equipment or personnel to run it, how does that help reduce the wait time. If there is a full-blown emergency situation, his theory of reduced wait time will go flying out the window.

—Louise Lauzon

I like Mr. Harpers proposal to set guaranteed wait times and bring more accountability to the health care system. This seems to make more sense than the Liberal's solution of simply throwing more money into the health care system with no expectations for change or results.

I think its a good idea. I have been impressed with Stephen Harpers start to the campaign. The health care announcement follows a great idea with the GST reduction.

—Kelly Dennis | Regina

I�m surprised by the Conservatives position on this. First, the Provinces are responsible for the delivery of Health Care, not the Federal Government. Second, based on this, how would Mr. Harper convince and then force the Premier�s to agree to this. Third, how much is it going to cost Canadians. Fourth, how much will privatization of Health Care play a role in Mr. Harper�s commitments to reducing wait times.

Finally, is Mr. Harper now suggesting supporting a larger role for the Federal Government in the day-to-day lives of Canadians? I�m not necessarily opposed, but it goes contrary to the Conservative philosophy that small Government is good Government, that the Federal Government should not be competing with the Private Sector and that Business can do things more cost effectively (cheaper) than can the Federal Government.

I am not opposed to National Standards for Health Care or Education, I am not opposed to reduced wait times, but these are NDP Policy positions not those of the Conservatives! I�m getting confused.

—Scott Reid | Kelowna, B.C.

Guaranteeing wait times--good luck! Mr. Harper wants to be able to send patients to other hospitals or even provinces to get timelier access. Please tell us which hospitals or provinces have acceptable wait times and can accept additional patients?

Mr. Harper, Mr. Martin, Mr. Layton all need to face reality. Our system is not working. It is time that they looked at examples such as Australia, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Germany etc. about how they have accomplished eliminating wait lists.

Dare I utter the words? Private Insurance aka parallel private system. In those other countries, no citizen is without health care and no one waits. Imagine that?!

Rather than spouting the politically correct (safe) line about preserving medicare at any cost, I dare a political party or politician to take a real leadership role and actually propose some meaningful, effective reforms.

—S D James | Vancouver

Should Mr. Harper win, his first concern regarding health care should be to ensure that the hospitals have the ability and resources necessary to perform up to their requirements.

I am concerned with his statements in the story about the expected wait times for surgery and treatment. Can the facilities performing the service, perform up to the new standards without jeopardizing the care and health of the patent involved. Or, will it just be a half-assed job to pump out the completions to comply with the Governmental requirement imposed by the new government? I would suggest the latter is more likely.

—Norm Sellgren

I think a guarantee is an awesome idea. It's about time something is done about this. All we hear is talk and more talk but at least this is a concrete first step. Way to go Harper. Look at him go, man!

—Colin J Bernard

We have heard forever that health care falls under Provincial jurisdiction, particularly from Quebec and Alberta.

I would like to hear EXACTLY how Harper plans to get agreement from ALL the provinces on all "wait times". They have so far refused.

Would "wait times" be the same across the country? Precisely, how will he "hold the Provinces accountable for their committment?

An example: Could a patient needing hip surgery in Newfoundland go to Calgary for this surgery and who picks up the total costs? What is Harpers definition of "parallel system".

—J. Gardner | Peachland, B.C.

I like Harper's approach to the Health Issue. It sounds workable and needed. To date the government has run in circles around the issue pouring billions into it with little results except for doubling the waiting time.

—Keith Schnell

Harper commits: "there will be no private, parallel (health care) system."

In doing so he joins the incompetent ranks of politicians who ignore the reality that there already is two-tier health care in Canada. He is just spouting useless election campaign rhetoric which if he was honest he would admit to not even supporting.

When is a political party in Canada going to deal with reality in health care and make the improvements in care and waiting lists by adopting the best practices as exist in countries like France?

—George Goodwin

Health care is always a hot election topic, and this one will be no different. One of the more serious problems in most provinces is a shortage of Doctors, so it surprises me that none of the parties have made the following suggestion.

Similar to the way the Armed Forces does, the government could pay the education expenses for prospective doctors, and then require that they practice in Canada for X number of years. I would think this sort of incentive, to finish your education debt free, would be very popular, and the health care system would keep it's new doctors.

On a national scale, the cost of this type of program would be far outweighed by the benefits gained.

—Jeff Dorey | Edmonton

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