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BC FORUM News - From The Advocate, Summer, 2021

 

Phony promises, Pharmacare and the perils of the pandemic

By Diane Wood,
President, BC FORUM

I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. On Feb. 24, one Liberal MP after another, again and again and again, voted against Pharmacare. Only two of them supported it. It was so painful to watch these Liberal MPs voting in lockstep against a vitally needed program. They’ve been promising Pharmacare since 1997. For 24 years they have failed to deliver. And now they’ve actively voted against it. Bill C-213, the Canada Pharmacare Act, was tabled by NDP MP Peter Julian (New Westminster-Burnaby). Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois and Liberals defeated it by a vote of 295 to 32.

Don’t they get it? Prescription drugs must be part of our public health care system. When people can’t afford their medication, their illness worsens. They visit their doctor again, or end up in hospital. It’s not good for them, and it’s a travesty for a supposedly civil society. Medically necessary hospital care is free. Medically necessary drugs must be too.

The lack of national Pharmacare is particularly dire for low income seniors. The latest report from B.C.’s Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie (see page 6) finds that after deductibles and co-payments, seniors in our province must find a way to pay two-thirds of the cost of their medications.

It’s not good enough. This battle will continue, my friends.

Perils of the pandemic

The human and economic toll of the pandemic is immense. Many of us have lost friends and loved ones before their time. None of us will ever again hear Gord Larkin, a former BC FORUM board member, lead BC Fed delegates in a rousing rendition of Solidarity Forever. In a time when we can’t get together to grieve, our losses are even harder to bear.

In a crisis like this, where we have all lost so much, there can be no winners and no declaration of victory. Sadly, all that any government can do is minimize the damage.

As I write this message to you, it appears that the pandemic is retreating from its winter peaks. Fewer new cases. Fewer people in hospital. Still too many, but it’s a hopeful trend. Will it continue? That’s impossible to predict. In a pandemic, the only certainty is uncertainty.

The emerging variants, identified in every province, are definitely cause for concern. They spread more easily, and may trigger a third wave. It feels like the virus is finding a way to step on the gas just as some provinces are reducing the pressure on the brake.

With these potential risks to our progress, I continue to be so impressed with the leadership of our Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. From the beginning she has advised us to “Be calm. Be kind. Be safe.” With every day that passes, those words seem even more prescient and wise.

You can tell this is not her first rodeo. Dr. Henry led the response to the SARS outbreak in Toronto in 2003, and worked with the World Health Organization to eradicate polio in Pakistan, and to control an ebola outbreak in Uganda. Her steady hand on the wheel is exactly what we need.

Vaccines ahead

Canada has purchased more vaccine, on a per capita basis, than any other country. It’s enough to inoculate everyone five times over. The globalized supply chains we now rely on have created some uncertainty about when the needed doses will be delivered. But they’re coming.

It’s a different story in many other nations. There will not be enough vaccine to protect everyone in the world until 2023 or 2024. That’s a problem for all of us. As the emerging variants demonstrate, we’re not safe until all of us are safe.

I send you a big virtual hug. We may have to be apart, but with patience, solidarity, and lots of hand washing, we’ll get through this.

 

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