Mr. Speaker, on February 2, I asked the Minister of Health a question about the critical shortage of MRI scanners in Canada today.
I referred to the example of Ontario where the wait lists have increased to 12,000 people per year. In Ottawa hospitals alone the waiting list is 7,000 individuals. This is but one example of the critical shortage of essential medical services available to Canadians today. It is merely the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem of the lack of access to health care.
It is a profound tragedy that today there is an expanding gap between the resources and the demand. The situation is only getting worse. For example, in my province of British Columbia between 1998 and 1999, the waiting lists for a knee replacement increased by 69% and for hip replacements by 90%.
Across the board Canadians are not getting access to health care. The reason is we have more expensive technologies and an aging population. The population over the age of 65 will double in the next 20 years. The outcome of this will be that the government will be forced to ration. As a result of that, the poor and middle class will pay the heavy price of the lack of access to essential health care services.
It may be fine for us to stick our heads in the sand and believe that we only have a small problem or to throw money at the situation and believe it will be resolved. The absolute inaction of the government and its failure to work with the provinces is hurting the poor and middle class.
In the hospital where I work, the waiting time to see an orthopaedic surgeon is three and a half years. Imagine if we were the patients who needed a total knee replacement. Imagine if we had twisted a knee or tore a ligament in our knee which required a scope. Imagine having to wait three and a half years just to see the orthopaedic surgeon.
We have to make some changes. I am proposing that the government do the following. For heaven's sake, act. The government is not acting on this or having a rational debate on the most important issue affecting Canadians.
I beg the government to do the following. Call together the public health care professionals, intellectuals and academics to build a plan to save our health care system, dealing not only with the issue of how we fund health care but also with the medical manpower crisis. With respect to surgeons, 42% of them are over the age of 55. With respect to gynaecologists and neurosurgeons, 40% of them are over the age of 55.
We have a critical lack of medical manpower in all medical specialities. We will have a lack of 110,000 nurses in the next ten years. This would be almost palatable if we saw action on resolving this issue. but unfortunately we do not see it.
Again, I plead with the government to pull together its provincial counterparts and sort these problems out now. It could develop a plan of action to deal with the funding crisis. It could develop the best practices from around the world. Prevention could be looked at.
The government could implement the national headstart program which the House passed in 1998. It is a pragmatic solution that will save people's lives and a great deal of money. It focuses on making sure the children have their basic needs met in the first six to eight years of life. As a result there will be a massive decrease in the demands that we place on our health care system.
In closing, I would ask for the help of the Government of Canada to act on this issue.