A Quebec-based chain of private medical clinics recently opened an office in Dartmouth, N.S., setting off alarm bells for local supporters of publicly funded medicine.
Dr. Adam Hofmann, co-founder of Algomed, says he's a strong advocate for public health care but Canada's strained system can't meet the needs of citizens.
"We can't stand by anymore while people are dying, literally dying, because they don't have family doctors," Hofmann said. "If you're talking about a universal public health-care system, it is neither universal, nor public, not free if you can't access it."
According to a survey from Statistics Canada, almost half of the adults across Canada's 10 provinces had difficulty accessing health care in 2020 and 2021. About 15 per cent said they didn't receive the care they needed at all.
Critic of private health care
The Nova Scotia Health Coalition advocates against privatization and for equitable access to health care.
Alexandra Rose, the coalition's provincial coordinator, says while private care might provide a temporary solution, it makes the shortfalls in Canada's public health care system even worse.
"Every time a private clinic opens, doctors leave the public sector, doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners. That's less staff working in the public sector, which is only going to exacerbate the extreme staffing crisis that we're already facing," Rose said.
The Algomed clinic is staffed by three nurses who specialize in primary care, according to Hofmann.
Hofmann says Algomed focuses on employing nurses — rather than doctors — allowing them to see thousands more patients each year compared to public clinics.
While the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness declined an interview, they did provide a statement saying they are aware of this clinic and are working to determine the impact that private medical facilities will have on Nova Scotians and the health-care system.
How does Algomed work?
Algomed is a subscription service in which clients pay $22 per month to become a member and then pay $20 for every visit to the clinic.
At an appointment, patients are seen by a nurse specializing in primary care. The nurse is supervised remotely by nurse practitioners and doctors who work with them to provide care, including annual checkups, prescriptions and specialist referrals.
Any care the clinic cannot provide is referred back to the public health-care system.
The clinic, which has only been active for a few months, currently has about four dozen subscribers.
Algomed is not the first private clinic to open in the area. The Unified Health Community Centre opened in west end Halifax in August 2018. CBC News has been unable to contact any person from the clinic for this story.
Same issues, different solutions
Both Hofmann and Rose agree on the problems that exist within Canada's public health-care system, but they disagree on the best way to tackle them.
Hofmann says he's taken the problem into his own hands because public health care has its limitations.
"What public health care does badly is adapt to the times. It doesn't innovate. It cannot innovate. It is too big a battleship to turn around," said Hofmann.
Rose says the responsibility to solve systemic issues lands on the shoulders of the government. She says she's worried private care will dissuade the government from finding long-term solutions on their own.
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