Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Nurses say court challenge threatens access to health care for all Ontarians

TORONTO, Sept. 5, 2007 – An Alberta-based group's Charter challenge threatens Canada's universal health-care system says the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO).

RNAO is concerned about the Canadian Constitution Foundation's challenge to the Ontario government on timely access to health care and patients' ability to buy private health insurance. RNAO President Mary Ferguson- Pare says the foundation wants us to believe that private insurance will make the health-care system more responsive to patients' needs, but that's a flawed assumption.

''It will do exactly the opposite. The minute you introduce private insurance into our system, you create two classes of patients. And the results are obvious. Those who can afford it jump to the front of the queue while the majority who can not afford it wait in line. This is two-tier health care. It is unjust and would lead to the destabilization of our health-care system,'' says Ferguson-Pare.

Ferguson-Pare adds there is plenty of evidence from other countries that shows that parallel, private insurance systems actually reduce cost efficiency, increase overall wait times, and result in more complications and deaths. She says there are better ways of easing wait lists and addressing the concerns of patients who feel they are not getting the timely care they deserve. ''There are many things we can do including easing the shortage of nurses and doctors, and allowing all health-care professionals to work to their full scope of practice. In fact, already there are numerous examples across Canada in which not-for-profit, specialized clinics are reducing wait times for hip, knee and cataract surgeries. We need to build on those success stories,'' says Ferguson-Pare. RNAO also says more investment in technologies such as electronic health records will make the system more efficient and effective, and will lead to better-managed wait lists.

''People in Ontario should be wary of the Canadian Constitution Foundation and its two-tier agenda,'' says Doris Grinspun, Executive Director of RNAO. ''Private insurers will ‘skim' the more profitable patients and leave the public system with chronic and catastrophic care. Anyone who is less than healthy and/or less than wealthy will receive compromised access to health-care services in a for-profit insurance market,'' adds Grinspun. RNAO says the Canadian Medical Association's own poll showed that 58 per cent of physicians felt that most of their patients would either not qualify or be unable to afford private insurance.

''Our Medicare system was founded because people could not afford medical care. We have been there and we are not going back,'' adds Grinspun. ''Ontarians do not want a system that discriminates against people on the basis of how big their wallet is. Ontarians want a system that provides people of all economic backgrounds with the health care they need and deserve whether they suffer traumatic injury resulting from a car accident, a heart attack or a chronic illness,'' Grinspun says.

RNAO says nurses are united in their interest to protect the public by strengthening and expanding Medicare for all Canadians and will fight physicians who use patients to advance their privatization agendas. ''We will continue to build on the public's values and make the public system even more responsive, efficient and accountable to Canadians. Now is the time to accelerate the positive reforms that are taking root across the country and here in Ontario. These reforms are strengthening public hospitals and community health, improving access to pharmaceutical drugs, and increasing healthy living standards,'' adds Ferguson-Pare.

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.


For more information, please contact:
Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Phone: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext.209
Cell: 647-406-5605