Don’t tax the weak and sick

Don’t tax the old, sick and chronically disabled, said Yukon Medical Association president Dr. Rao Tadepalli at an association conference on…

Don’t tax the old, sick and chronically disabled, said Yukon Medical Association president Dr. Rao Tadepalli at an association conference on Friday, responding to the newly-released Yukon health-care review.

The 260-page review made 43 recommendations, including one calling for premiums to be charged on nursing home residents and patients requiring out-of-territory medical care.

“I think before we start taxing the sickest and the oldest, we need to took at innovative strategies … my last option would be to go after people that are old and disabled and chronically ill,” said Dr. Rao Tadepalli, president of the Yukon Medical Association.

“We shouldn’t make people feel that just because they’re old and disabled and chronically ill that they ought to be paying more — that is just the worst fear,” said Tadepalli.

Some doctors questioned whether Premier Dennis Fentie was intentionally suggesting controversial measures to highlight the need for greater federal funding.

The review offered “greater sustainability” for Yukon health care and offered “options … for addressing burgeoning health-care costs,” said Health And Social Services Minister Glenn Hart in a speech to conference delegates.

“The report states that Yukoners must take some responsibility for contributing to the fiscal sustainability of Yukon health care,” said Hart.

Tadepalli also downplayed the recent government decision to construct a long-awaited secure psychiatric ward at the Whitehorse General Hospital.

“It’s like changing the lock on the door,” said Tadepalli.

“What we are doing is a Band-Aid solution because we’re not really improving any infrastructure,” he said.

“We’re making a car into a van and a van into a truck — and the truck’s something else.”

A “lack of leadership” is preventing the government from pursuing more innovative approaches to what is essentially an inefficient health-care system.

“Most of our time is spent on inefficiencies, and you can see the health-care dollars just pilfering away,” said Tadepalli.

“Greater health-care innovation” was the theme in a speech to the association by visiting Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Robert Ouellet.

Traditionally, governments have responded to health-care concerns with increased spending, he said.

“This is fine when the economy is strong … but when times are tough and deficits loom, we know health-care services feel the pinch,” said Ouellet.

Greater technological innovation is not receiving enough consideration, said Ouellet.

“Among the seven leading industrialized nations in the world, Canada has the lowest usage rates for electronic medical records,” said Ouellet.

“Imagine the banking system without ATM machines,” he said.

Fear of drifting into the US model of privatized health care often restricts Canadians from considering the role of public-private health partnerships, but their value cannot be underestimated, he said.

“Our system needs to remain universal, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no role for the private sector,” said Ouellet.

The private sector is more efficient, justifying any profit they may be making, said Ouellet.

“If (privatization) is helpful in certain areas, why not?” he said.

Contact Tristin Hopper at tristinh@yukon-news.com