Mr. Speaker, I am all the more pleased to speak to the motion put forward by the New Democratic Party as I worked in health services in my region for seven years.
If I compare what was happening then with what is happening today, it is quite apparent that, at the time, the health care system in Quebec was changing considerably. We must remember that Quebec did not pass its first health and social services legislation until 1972.
That year, if memory serves, Claude Castonguay was Quebec's minister of health. From 1972 on, health care services evolved constantly, becoming much more open to the public. The Government of Quebec—as was the case with the other provinces—purchased hospitals and began to run them. Previously, religious communities and others had managed them. The Government of Quebec also bought residences for seniors. They too were operated by religious communities for the most part.
We created what are called the social service centres, today consolidated into the local community service centres. These started up in Montreal as a kind of pilot project and now are all over Quebec, replacing the former health units.
If we compare the present situation with how it was then, or even before that, we can see that making the public health system accessible to the population has contributed significantly to improving people's quality of life all over Quebec, not just in the major centres but in the regions as well. Many additions have been made over the years to the health system.
Why is the health system across Canada, including that in Quebec, being challenged today? There must be a reason for this. Costs are constantly increasing, of course, as is pressure on the system because of our ageing populations. As the number of seniors increases, there is more and more pressure on services providing accommodation for the elderly.
We have to realize that, in light of the provincial governments' inability to invest sufficient funds, the private sector is becoming more and more active within the health care system.
I have one good example to offer hon. members. In the early 1970s, there was no such thing as a private old people's home. If there was anything for this age group, it was either a rooming house or a residence that offered no support services and no health services. People in such places were totally on their own.
Today, this is no longer the case. This kind of home for the aged provides more and more health services, because the public sector does not have the funds, or does not have enough funds, to build new residences, or to expand existing ones for seniors who are facing greater difficulties. Sometimes tragedies occur. Most of these facilities provide excellent care, but we have seen recent examples of others where this was not the case.
Our population is aging and there are more and more seniors who can no longer live independently. Such people have no place to go. They do not have access to accommodation in the public system. In some types of facilities, we can see that services are deteriorating because the funds are not available to provide all the services this type of client requires.
In a region like mine we have small health institutions because we do not have the necessary catchment population. I am thinking about the Matapédia valley, Sainte-Anne-des-Monts and other places. As a result, people have to travel great distances to get health and social services. If we look at the big picture, we see that the system will be under ever greater pressure given the aging population and the improvement of equipment.
This is something very important that is very rarely talked about with respect to the cost of the health care system. Institutions are increasingly acquiring new systems. New treatment methods are discovered through research.
Accordingly, we have ever better equipment available to us. Unfortunately, such equipment is ever more expensive. With new treatment methods more services available, we artificially increase the life expectancy of the population. This creates a great deal of pressure and increases the cost of the health care system.
The real reason the private sector has a greater presence in the health care system is because public funding is inadequate.
Costs will increase significantly over the next 10 to 15 years. In 2002-03, the cost was some $72.5 billion. In 2019-20, the cost of the health care system will be nearly $100 billion. Here we have the real question.
Do we truly want to invest in a health system and do we truly want to develop it as a public system that is accessible to everyone? I believe we do.
Indeed, people my age and a little younger will recall what it was like to live without a public health care system. Hon. members have to remember that, like me, most people my age were born at home. There was no giving birth at the hospital. This was your experience, Mr. Speaker, because you are about my age. We can agree on “about”.
Why did women give birth at home at the time? There was no access to the health care system. A nurse or a midwife was available. However, people did not have the means to go to a hospital to have a child, because it cost quite a bit to go there for treatment.
These were private institutions. Even if they did belong to religious communities, people still had to pay, because the government did not contribute to the system, for a stay in the health care system.
There were a lot of tragedies because the system was not public. Many women died giving birth at home because they did not have access to a doctor or a nurse. This is the sort of tragedy we faced in our time.
When the health care system came in, of course the life expectancy of the population just exploded. Yes, but why? Because the people were getting proper services. In Quebec and all the other provinces, they had access to excellent services. The people had an opportunity to increase their life expectancy, and to fight the diseases that once had been untreatable.
That is why, when we look at what has happened since 1990 or so, we see that the federal government has been withdrawing its financing from the health care system. As has been recently stated, the federal government claims that it contributes 40% to the health care system. But let us see what that includes.
It includes direct federal expenses, including such things as health care for the first nations. There is also everything related to veterans. There are compassionate benefits. There is health protection and disease prevention, as well as research and health-related information technology.
Moreover, this year, $500 million is being invested in a health agency. The 40% includes that same $500 million. But these are not direct services provided to the public. When we talk about health services, we mean direct services to the public. When the figures say it is 16%, we are talking about direct services to the population, and that is what we need to talk about in order to have a real picture of the health care system and its funding.