Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Health Care in the Republic of Newfoundland

Here is Part 3 in Orwellian News' series on life in the future Republic of Newfoundland. Parts 1 & 2 explored democracy and foreign policy in this independent utopia:

From the standpoint of Newfoundland nationalism, what's most interesting about health care is the silence. Newfoundland separatists are easily thrown into fits of rage when the topic veers anywhere near nationalist terrain such as foreign over-fishing, borders of any sort, equalization, flags, Hydro, oil rights, and almost anything else involving federal jurisdiction. In addition, they are provoked into apoplexy by discussion of the past, the Referenda, Confederation, conspiracy theories, the First World War, or Commission of Government.

But when talk turns to health care, the angry blogs and call-in shows go curiously quiet. When DW appointed a Mainlander to run Eastern Health, there was nary a peep from the separatist camp. While the mainstream media and public were focused on the tragic findings of the Cameron Inquiry, the nationalists were busy plotting war on the Romaine River. When asked for his opinion on Confederation, Greg Malone, the newest nationalist expert, simply pontificated, "It's a total failure." He didn't feel the need to burden himself with details such as health care:

This state of affairs is rather curious. If a liberation movement passionately craves nationhood, then surely its members would feel compelled -- nay, they would jump at the opportunity -- to spell out how an independent republic would offer better health care than a mere Canadian province. Surely they would be able to point out how health care was superior in the good old days, before the Canadian wolf imposed Medicare.

Surely they would be able to point to the gross injustices perpetuated by the Canada Health Act. Surely they would be able to show how the federal government mismanages Eastern Health. Surely they would be able to blame the findings of the Cameron Inquiry on Ottawa.

But there is a Parkway-sized pothole on the road to separatist health policy: it's a provincial jurisdiction. The many failures of health care in NL cannot be pinned on Ottawa. If the separatists criticized the running of health care, they would have to criticize DW, whose government has been running it for six years.

Still, the question remains: What would The Ministry of Health in the future Republic of Newfoundland look like? According to Brian Dobbin, departments such as Health would be run by professional experts, not elected politicians: "Ministers should be professionals like in Taiwan or the U.S. cabinet." He continues, "Elect the premier separately, he’s the CEO. Let him or her recruit and hire the professionals needed to minister the delivery of our services and the stimulation of our economy."

Professional administrators, not politicians. No Ross Wisemans screwing things up. No cabinet interference. Get the business of health care out of the House of Assembly and into the hands of capable professionals, who know how to handle complicated things like issuing a press release. Keep it out of the public glare -- that's the nationalist ticket.

Free from the federale's Canada Health Act, the professionals could create a type of Crown Corporation -- a hybrid called something like Republic Health -- and give it a separate building in the west end, far away from the Premier's Office. An independent Newfoundland could also search the world for the best and brightest and attract professional CEO's from places like Ontario.

But some funny things happened on the way to the tricolour flag ceremony. The funny thing is that in 2009 it's not the elected Minister of Health who is receiving public death threats from Danny Williams. The funny thing is that it's not the elected MHA's who are being put under severe official censure. The funny thing is that being a have province -- the necessary condition to mastery and autonomy -- did not magically solve the health care crisis. The funny thing is that with all the petrodollars sloshing around the provincial treasury, the Health Sciences Centre still looks like a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina.

No matter. Following the Dobbin report, The Republic of Newfoundland would privatize health care and emulate the United States. Anything American has got to be better than Canadian, right? Don't they live longer down there and pay less in GDP on health care than Canada?

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