Everybody's heard of the apple that the snake used to tempt Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The modern-day version of that fairy tale is happening in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The setting: Canada's much talked about universal healthcare system. The snake is one Dr. Mark Godley and his apple: a $10-million, 10-bed private emergency care clinic for patients who want to buy themselves special treatment. Which might not be a story at all except that Canada is one of those model western countries that has universal healthcare, which means everyone gets equal access to treatment. Doesn't matter if one is a pauper or a prince. Everyone deals with the same long lines and the same delay in getting an appointment. On the plus side, everyone benefits from good healthcare that costs nothing.
Unlike here in America where the poor are generally left out in the cold. Working-class folks and seniors on a fixed income often have to choose between a necessary medical procedure or food or rent. Medicines cost an arm and a leg. A serious illness can land someone in the poor house in no time at all. The possibility of passing federal legislation to establish universal healthcare in America is zilch right now, thanks to the powerful lobbies that benefit from us paying through the teeth (if we have any left). On Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi's to-do list in the first 100 days is lowering the price of medicine, but not pushing universal healthcare, which is one of the country's most urgent needs.
San Francisco will soon be implementing a daring endeavor to provide universal coverage. The Golden Gate Restaurant Association has filed a lawsuit against it. Vancouver is not the only city dealing with a snake.
How did a private for-profit clinic manage to open in Canada? Critics of the new medical facility are asking British Columbia Health Minister Mark Abbott that very same question. The Health Minister says his office is investigating. Meanwhile, he's threatened to get an injunction against Godley's operation because it violates the Canada Health Act. Godley doesn't seem worried. Explained his spokesperson, Sherry Wiebe: "Everybody is aware that there are some questions about the legalities and we've got legal counsel, as does the government, and they're all looking at these concerns together." Protesters showed up at the local City Council to demand the clinic's permits be denied but the legislators decided that it wasn't a municipal issue.
Maybe they should find a good snake handler. Or remind Canadians that ultimately Adam and Eve got booted out of paradise into the cold without any clothes or discernible way to fend for themselves. Canadians could end up with a two-tiered healthcare system: one for the rich and one for the rest of the population. That would be sad. The whole point of universal healthcare is that all patients are created equal. No one goes to the head of the line because of class privilege or ability to pay more. Everyone gets a shot at the same medical care regardless of where they are on the social rung.
British Columbia should close down this clinic.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical, working-class, southern Italian (in the tradition of Sacco and Vanzetti), queer performer, activist and writer whose works can be seen at www.avicollimecca.com.