Half of Canadians believe private options would worsen the health-care system, poll finds

Click to play video: 'New poll on Canadians’ attitude towards private health care'
New poll on Canadians’ attitude towards private health care
WATCH: A new survey finds that despite all of the problems within our health care system, Canadians are still leery about adding private care to the mix. Kamil Karamali reports – Sep 12, 2022

Half of Canadians believe the creation of new private care options would have a negative impact on the country’s health-care system, an Angus Reid Institute poll suggests.

The August online survey of 2,279 adults from across the country found that 32 per cent believe private options would improve the ailing system, while 18 per cent weren’t sure.

Angus Reid Institute president Shachi Kurl described the findings as a “softening” on both sides of the public-private debate, which was likely more polarized between 20 and 30 years ago.

“If you are someone who is a no absolute care absolutist, you’re going to be worried that it’s only 50 per cent who are thinking the same way you are,” she told Global News.

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“If you’re somebody who’s maybe more open to the notion of private care, that 30 per cent maybe isn’t the number you’re looking for, but at the same time, it’s a lot higher than it might have been a generation ago.”

The findings published Monday are the third in a series from the Angus Reid Institute, which examined access to health care in Canada and the United States. In Canada, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20, and in the U.S., plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Click to play video: 'New survey finds many Canadians having problems accessing health care'
New survey finds many Canadians having problems accessing health care

Overall, Canadian male respondents were more likely to support privatization than women, at 38 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.

Across the political spectrum, past Conservative voters were most likely to believe private health care could offer improvements at 54 per cent, compared to 18 per cent of previous Liberal voters and 10 per cent of past New Democrat voters.

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The survey also found those with higher incomes were more likely than those with lower incomes to believe privatization could pose a solution. In households earning less than $100,000 per year, private health care opposition outweighed support by almost two-to-one, it said.

In its series, the Angus Reid Institute has found that nearly 30 per cent of Canadians have experienced “chronic difficulty” accessing care, and more than 60 per cent of Canadians are not confident they could access health care in a timely way in the event of an emergency.

Three in five respondents described the state of care in their communities as “poor,” while a quarter believes it’s in “crisis.” Eighty-seven per cent, 94 per cent and 92 per cent reported concerns about doctor shortages, staffing shortages and surgery wait times, respectively.

In B.C., 41 per cent of respondents described the state of local health care as “poor.” Fifty-two per cent reported more private health care options would worsen the system, and 31 per cent disagreed.

Click to play video: 'New poll shows less support for government COVID-19 restrictions'
New poll shows less support for government COVID-19 restrictions

South Delta mother of three Kutrina Mosch said her family has had tremendous difficulty accessing health care in B.C. She and her children all have complex care needs, ranging from mental health challenges to chronic pain.

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“Currently as a disabled person, I am doing the job not only of caregiving for my kids, but I’m also managing all of their health care, their needs, their meetings with different clinics,” she told Global News.

“It would probably be about three or four full-time people doing the job I’m doing.”

No stranger to wait lists, cancelled appointments and unrenewed prescriptions, Mosch — who has no family doctor — said she would like to see private care options in the province.

“I feel that we should all be able to get the same level of care, but if the person has the funding and the money that they can access it now instead of waiting four or five years on the list, and it helps people like myself who are on disability … then sure, go ahead, use your money for that,” she said.

“It helps out everybody by making the lists a little bit shorter.”

Click to play video: 'Half of Canadians want COVID-19 boosters as soon as possible'
Half of Canadians want COVID-19 boosters as soon as possible

Discussing Angus Reid Institute findings last week, Vancouver family physician Dr. Anna Wolak said she’s not sure the time is right to add a private tier to Canadian health-care systems, citing cost as a major barrier.

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“Before having to go into the private-public debate, you need to look at the redistribution and reallocation of what is being given already to the public system, because the money is there, it’s just that the people who need it the most aren’t getting it,” she explained.

Last month, the B.C. government and Doctors of B.C. announced a $118-million short-term fund to help stabilize family physician practices and clinics in the province. Meanwhile, the two groups are working to address stagnant wages and a problematic fee model that doctors have said results in patient backlogs, along with increased and unsustainable business costs.

In a written statement responding to the poll results, the B.C. Ministry of Health attributed many service delays in the past two years to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with “unprecedented demand” on the system. “Significant investments” are coming in the next few weeks and months, it added.

Almost 100 per cent of patients whose scheduled surgeries were delayed in the first wave of the pandemic have now had their operations, said the ministry, along with nearly 80 per cent of those whose operations were postponed in the fourth and fifth waves. It also cited “tremendous progress” on wait times for diagnostic imaging in the province.

“We know people continue to feel those challenges, but we’re confident our progress so far demonstrates our willingness to continue to meet these challenges,” the ministry wrote.


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