Private health-care advocate wins CMA presidency

Last Updated Tue, 22 Aug 2006

CBC News

A Vancouver surgeon who supports expanding private health care has been confirmed as president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association after another doctor took the unusual step of running against him.

Dr. Brian Day was confirmed as the CMA’s next president as the association met in Charlottetown on Tuesday morning.

Usually, the CMA convention simply ratifies the selection of the provincial society that will be hosting the convention in the following year.

Since the CMA will meet in British Columbia in 2007, the B.C. Medical Association chose Day as its nominee.

But other doctors from the host province have a right to step forward and challenge the nominee, a step that was taken this year by Dr. Jack Burak, a family physician.

At issue was the CMA’s position on private health care in Canada.

Day owns the Cambie Surgery Centre, a private orthopedic clinic in Vancouver, and is an advocate for a private system to run alongside Canada’s system of public health care. However, he said he has never supported the privatization of health care in Canada.

Burak opposes private health care, saying it should be reserved only for patients who have waited too long for treatment in the public system.

The CMA did not release the actual voting numbers, saying only that Day had won.

Day advocates for change

In a speech following his election, Day lamented the poor state of Canada’s health-care system.

“When many of us were starting out 30 years ago, Canada had an effective and efficient health-care system,” he said.

“Since then, government policies have reduced resources and created such a shortage of doctors that millions of Canadians don’t have a family physician, they can’t get in to see a specialist, they wait far too long for necessary tests and procedures and, sadly, patients languish in hospital corridors.”

Day said he has never supported the privatization of health care in Canada, and accused his detractors of deliberately distorting his position.

“Like most Canadians, and most physicians, I believe there is a place for the private sector and for public-private partnerships,” he said.

Day believes the CMA has an important role in defining how the public and private sectors can work together to provide the best possible health care for Canadians.