Montreal, September 15, 2004  /  No 146  
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Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.
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by Harry Valentine
          When a government acts to restrict a service or a product and to control its official price, it inevitably creates shortages, as was the case on supermarket shelves in communist countries. In this case, store shelves where empty of what people wanted and overstocked of products people did not want. Government control over medicine has resulted in an increase in demand for state-paid medical services, while the supply of adequate medical service is restricted, another result of government action. A nationwide shortage of doctors exists across Canada, even though there is a large number of foreign-trained doctors who are eager to provide medical services to the public at large, who are either landed immigrants or already Canadian citizens.
          The majority of Canada's provincial premiers oppose private medical services, instead regarding state medicine as the ideal. In recent years, the shortcomings of state medicine has included delayed surgeries, overcrowded hospitals and an exodus of Canadian medical personnel going to hospitals and clinics in the USA. Joining this exodus are Canadian citizens seeking medical help from private American clinics. Some patients have even traveled to hospitals and clinics af far as Germany, Turkey and India, seeking user-pay medical help that was unavailable in Canada.  
          Private, user-pay, underground surgery had at one time been available in back-alleys in Canada, usually to women seeking abortions. This was a result of government having banned abortions. When abortion clinics and abortion services become legally available, the back-alley underground abortion "clinics" and services that at one time had flourished for many years in most large cities, closed their doors. Government action had inadvertently created lucrative business opportunities for underground abortionists. In a similar manner, the shortcomings of government control of medicine in Canada has created new, lucrative business opportunities for foreign clinics and hospitals that are willing to provide services to Canadians citizens who care to come for a visit. 
New opportunities in long-distance medicine 
          Advances in telecommunications technology, specifically, high-speed broadband internet networks, has opened up new opportunities in long-distance medicine. Using this technology, a doctor in one location can undertake a medical examination of a patient at a distant location, anywhere from several hundred to several thousand miles (kilometers) away. This advancing technology also allows doctors to perform "distance surgery," that is, the doctor and patient are at different locations. Recent development involving such technology now has x-ray technicians located in India, being employed by American clinics to examine American patients.  
          Technology is now becoming available to the home market that enables people located in private homes in Canada or the USA to consult with foreign medical personnel located abroad, on a wide variety of medical issues. Further advances in such technology could eventually see a foreign doctor located in another country, performing long-distance minor surgery on a Canadian patient, also in the privacy of their own home, or that of a friend located either in Canada or the USA. The appropriate surgical equipment could be leased on a short term basis from an American supplier (Canada would act to ban ownership of a range of electronic technology). Private, user-pay, long-distance clinics (located in the USA) could employ foreign doctors to perform a variety of minor surgical procedures on patients (from Canada), via high-speed, broadband internet technology. 
          While Canadian law restricts the existence of private medical services in Canada, the unintended consequence has been the increase in the number of Canadians seeking medical services abroad. The political objectives of the new federal government's health care policy may provide some relief to some Canadians over the short term. Canada's chronic shortage of doctors is a direct result of government control over health care. It is a problem that will not soon be resolved. Most foreign trained doctors living in Canada, including those who successfully practiced medicine abroad, may continue to be shut out of the Canadian medical profession over the long-term future.  
     “Technology is now becoming available to the home market that enables people located in private homes in Canada or the USA to consult with foreign medical personnel located abroad, on a wide variety of medical issues.”
          This practice of mercantilism in Canada's medical profession has had a long history of political participation. Politicians were able to score points with voters by promising to maintain high standards in Canadian medicine. These high standards now include long waiting times for surgery, a chronic doctor shortage, overcrowded and underfunded hospitals. Despite these shortcomings, mercantilism in Canadian medicine may only be made more devious, by creating even more obstacles to keep foreign-trained doctors out of the Canadian medical field. The foreign doctors located abroad, at foreign hospitals and clinics, including those offering medical services over the internet, will see an increasing number of patients from Canada. This may likely be the legacy of the First Ministers' Meeting on Health which got under way on September 13. 
Alternatives to public health care 
          Political control over health care has already revealed its downside. Attempts to rectify the problems caused by such control have the potential to create even more unintended results in the long-term future. Private citizens may therefore have to take greater personal responsibility for their health care. Many doctors and health care people located outside of Canada have written medical books and publish magazines aimed at the public at large. Other doctors and medical personnel publish newsletters over the internet, advising the public about health issues. 
          One health care writer, Bill Sardi, has presented articles on the benefits of vitamin C and vitamin D3 (fights cancer). Dr Weston A. Price's organization covers a range of traditional preventative health care topics. Dr Joseph Mercola's Webpage advises readers on diet, as well as a range of health issues that includes the need to increase omega-3 fat intake and the need to eliminate sugar from one's diet. The late Dr Robert Atkins of low-carb diet fame, was known to regularly take heart patients off high-cost prescription medication, replacing their daily health care regime to include lower-costing minerals and supplements.   
          While government officials act to protect the credibility and commercial interests of drug companies, patients in hospitals and nursing homes are falling ill with diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Many high-priced antibiotics developed by drug companies are proving ineffectiveness against new, emerging strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, one natural-occurring antibacterial/antiviral/antibiotic products that has repeatedly proven its ability to combat a variety of strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, is sold at low-cost at almost any supermarket. A Website on the medical use of garlic advises about this. 
          While garlic has been recognized for its potent antibacterial properties, clove (antibacterial, antioxidant), ginger (antioxidant, cardiovascular), oregano (highest antioxidant), cinnamon (type 2 diabetes, cholesterol), and nutmeg (circulation, cholesterol) are other low-cost food products that are frequently used in homeopathic remedies. Except such low-cost alternative remedies will never be used in any public health care facility, where patients may have fallen ill due to an antibiotic-resistant bacterium. Protecting the commercial interest and credibility of drug companies may have a higher priority. 
          Traditionally, politicians and government officials have acted to protect the commercial interests of politically well-connected and influential groups, like the medical profession and the drug companies. The breakdown in health care in Canada is a direct result of this. The late Dr Robert Atkins repeatedly proved that low-cost supplements can be used to replace high-priced prescription drugs, for a variety of ailments. Government departments are frequently subject to lobbying by special-interest groups, including in the health care field. Officials may have little choice but to act to protect the commercial interests of politically well-connected players in the health care field.  
          Instead of protecting citizens, the consequences of government action in health care, will compel a growing segment of the population to seek alternative ways of protecting and maintaining their health. In the long-term future, more citizens may need to consult books written by (foreign) doctors, seek health care advice from their Websites, seek help from foreign internet-based medical services, and consult with homeopaths or practitioners of alternate medicine, perhaps even travel abroad to visit foreign user-pay health care services if the need arises. As state-run health care continues to deteriorate, an increasing number of Canadians will have little choice but to seek relief from alternative medicine. Such will become the legacy of state-run health care in Canada.