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Medicare under attack: there are forces of darkness working against our shared destiny.

Canada faces a shocking threat to Medicare's existence and Canada's traditional way of life. The battle is being waged by a mindset featuring an evil ideology, highly organized and supported by big money. On the other side are millions of disorganized citizens who, for the most part, are oblivious to the danger facing them in the joust.

Dr. Roy Romanow, author of the Royal Commission report, Building on Values: The Future of Health Care in Canada, spoke eloquently about this danger at a conference in Regina in 2007: "Through the years, as we lived together, worked together, and built together, [we developed a] notion of shared destiny [which] was transformed into the foundation of a nation. Generation after generation of Canadians have seized on the cornerstone idea that our future and our society is frequently best shaped through community action--that the sum of Canada is often greater than its remarkably diverse parts. This, then, is our nation's narrative and it resides in our collective DNA. In recent years, however, the soil has been tilled for the sprouting of views at odds with shared destiny. Today, we witness a palpable momentum toward individualism, decentralization, and privatization."

John Ralston Saul, in his 1995 Massey Lectures, called it corporatism.

The philosophy of the corporate boardroom has subtly been absorbed wholesale. Terms like the bottom line, stakeholder, and client (instead of patient) are commonplace. Harmless? Probably! But what is not harmless is that the motivator in the workplace, which used to be one of cooperation and pride of workmanship, seems to have been replaced by fear and distrust.

Attempting to counter this movement is an excellent little book--A Healthcare Covenant--which is well-written and carefully thought-out, published by Ecumenical Health Care Network and the Canadian Council of Churches (www.ccc-cce.ca).

It begins with an excellent foreword by health-care expert Dr. Nuala Kenney of the Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University. Next, Karen MacKay-Llewellyn explains why Christians, particularly, should be concerned about the provision of health care. A brief but outstanding history of the role of the church in health care is provided by Joe Gunn. This careful study reveals that the church has been active in influencing health-care legislation since the 17th century.

The whole of the submission to the Kirby (Senate) Committee presented in 2001 by Stephen Allen, associate secretary of justice ministries for The Presbyterian Church in Canada, is full of good ideas and is reproduced in full. Likewise the plea for a health care covenant, presented to the Romanow Commission in 2002. Taken together, they acquaint us with the issues and the thinking of the EHCN, and focus the reader on current and ongoing problems. Incidentally, that recommendation about a covenant, in substance, appears in the Romanow Report as the first of its 47 recommendations.

My old friend Janet Somerville, former general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, convincingly informs us on "Why Christians Should Stay Involved in Canada's Health Care Debate."

Finally, some 30 pages of fact sheets provide essential information for possible study groups. Why a health covenant should be adopted by Parliament is thoroughly aired; the issues surrounding home care are discussed; the merits of a national health council are presented; the problem of wait times is analyzed; for-profit health care is shown to be a far cry from a solution; and issues surrounding home care, health-care funding, and prescription drugs are discussed in sufficient detail to be useful in study group discussions. The book concludes with a postscript by Rev. Dr. Kenneth Bellous. Two most useful appendices are included, pointing the reader to essential facts that may not be generally known.

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The EHCN is alive to the dangers lurking in the shadows, and has put out this book in order to galvanize the Christian community to action. The fact is, there are powers of darkness working sometimes quietly, sometimes overtly, to destroy Medicare. These are forces which have bought into the ideology that the market should be called upon to make decisions as far as our health care goes. These misguided forces are responsible for putting out unsubstantiated views like "Medicare is unsustainable" and must be supplemented by private insurance and private, for-profit agencies to deliver health care. They harp, for instance, on waiting times, claiming that for-profit agencies would make wait times go away. The question is, how do we fight back? One way would be to create EHCN chapters in every community to put political pressure on their legislative and parliamentary representatives. Unless the grassroots make its preferences known, how are the lawmakers supposed to know that our single-payer health-care system is preferred to any alternative available? This book provides an excellent starting place for study.

Jack Boan is professor emeritus at the University of Regina and a highly sought-after expert on health-care issues.
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Title Annotation:OPINION
Author:Boan, Jack
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Sep 1, 2008
Words:801
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