Mr. Alderic Laurendeau (Berihier-Maskinonge):
Mr. Speaker, at the outset I wish to tell you that I am very glad I heard such interesting speeches this afternoon. I hope that during the Easter recess you may find a way of letting us hear, from our desks, speeches as interesting as those that were made this afternoon. As I was not in my own seat, I was able to hear the speech of the C.C.F. party leader (Mr. Coldwell), that of the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot) as well as the remarks of the charming and only lady member of this house (Mrs. Strum), who told us what she thinks of the C.C.F.
I have only a few remarks to make at the present time. I am particularly happy about the level at which this discussion has been taking place. A few days ago I read an article by the former leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Mackenzie King) in which he said that men must come before material things, in other words that human capital must have priority over material things, and that even governments had long neglected the human values to care for only the material values.
Inasmuch as, in my sphere, I have always cared simply for men and not for material things, I was glad when I heard a while ago
National Health Insurance the C.C.F. party leader make a speech which, I must confess, has pleased me.
Now, I have heard a different version from the hon. member for Temiscouata. One cannot arrive at a conclusion by reading only a few pages from a book. But when one reads a whole book and weighs the arguments, it is still exceedingly difficult to arrive at a conclusion, without having had some experience and without sound judgment.
With reference to national health, although I approve in principle the speech made by the leader of the C.C.F. party-and I am speaking for myself as a country doctor- the rural population need the help of medical service.
I have been practising medicine for over 30 years; my father and my grandfather did the same for over 50 years. Therefore, I may state that the rural population-especially the population with which I am acquainted: that of the province of Quebec-is now lacking proper medical care. Many things are lacking in this connection.
I wish to congratulate the Liberal party and the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) for what they have done so far for the welfare of the rural population. Health insurance would serve them no purpose at the present time because we have neither the means nor the facilities to take proper care of that population. A great many of my rural patients are presently in need of medical care, hospitalization, X-ray examination, etc., but there are no institutions available and ready to receive them.
The action which the government has taken in having small hospitals built- especially in rural districts-is, to my mind, the beginning of socialized medicine. Undue haste should be avoided, because, as I said, we are unable to give those people the care they need. Even if we now had specialized physicians, the needed institutions are nonexistent. Besides, we lack people with the required ability, especially in the rural areas.
I do not wish to offend country doctors, but neither do I want medicine to be decentralized, as it is seemingly intended. The hon. the Minister of National Health and Welfare should not decentralize specialized services, such as those connected with cancer and tuberculosis. Some latitude might be given as regards the early diagnosis of cases, but when it comes to treatment,
especially for cancer, the patients should be sent to specialized institutions. I would not like research to be decentralized or have rural hospitals claim the right to treat all cancer cases. I do not feel this would be of benefit to the patient.
In the matter of grants for the building of rural hospitals, I should like to point out to the minister that in my district, for instance, in centres such as Louisville, Berthierville, St. Gabriel de Brandon, the best plan would be to build small hospitals, in each case with the co-operation of the provincial government. They could be provided with a clinic, a few beds for purposes of general medical practice and even a section for old people, which could also serve as an old folks' home. They should also have an up-to-date laboratory for purposes of diagnosis.
I feel it would be more practical to build a sort of clinic for the aged, maternity cases and general medicine.
Again, I do not think it would be wise to build large hospitals in rural areas because there are not enough specialists and practitioners of major surgery.
I do not think it advisable for you to decentralize medicine to that extent. What makes a good surgeon, a good radiologist, a good biologist, is not only technical knowledge but what has been learned through examinations and operations.
Mr. Speaker, without reflecting any discredit on the rural surgeons, or on small town surgeons, I feel that the welfare of our rural population requires that the practice of specialized medicine be restricted to the large centres.
I sincerely thank the minister for the substantial grants given for research work on cancer, in Montreal, especially for work done at the Radium Institute. He should carry on his efforts in that direction, because there are laboratories, in Montreal and Quebec, located near the hospitals. As a matter of fact, the doctors and surgeons in rural centres have not enough practice, as they are not called to perform a great enough number of major operations. Speaking through experience and as a rural surgeon, I would suggest that small hospitals be built, for various purposes, and that cases of major operations and mental cases be treated in large centres only.
I have in mind, precisely, the hospital of Joliette, a city located near my home town. It is a splendid hospital whose physicians go to New York and Paris to take postgraduate courses, which are surely beneficial to the patients of that institution. Should general medicine be divided into too many spheres, I believe that it would be detrimental to the rural population.
A short while ago, the leader of the C.C.F. spoke about socialized medicine. That is all right and I believe that eventually the government will establish it. However, the time is not yet ripe and I even understand that Canadian doctors are vigorously opposed to it. Although I do not know what results and consequences that method has brought about in England, I submit that there is certainly something to be done in this respect. However, I wish to insist on the fact that our rural people should have the right to be examined free of charge in our hospitals and should have the benefit of X-ray services and laboratory examinations such as urine and blood tests. This would greatly help their family doctors in their diagnosis.
The doctor could indeed direct more safely his patient to a rural hospital or to a large centre according to the seriousness of the case.
I sincerely congratulate the government for what they have done in the district and elsewhere, for doing the utmost to improve our national health.
Without interfering in the differences between the provinces and the dominion-I feel the minister is better qualified than I to deal with this question,-the matter of provincial autonomy is certainly involved, for as we all know national health comes under the jurisdiction of the provinces rather than under that of the dominion. For that reason, I congratulate the government again on the splendid assistance they have given the provinces in that particular field. I quite understand that certain members claim it will be necessary to levy heavy taxes for the purpose of securing free medical aid for our rural population. But I am not now dealing with the financial aspect of the matter. Nevertheless, I consider that our rural population is entitled to the benefits and modern resources of medical science. X-rays should not be the exclusive right of the rich. In my opinion, the farmer, the man who labours the whole year, spends half his time on the land in the summer and the other half, during the winter, in lumber camps, has very limited means.
National Health Insurance However, he should have the right to undergo a medical examination and X-ray, just as much as any other person who has more money. I think that these conditions account for the dissatisfaction of our people who should be entitled to benefit from new discoveries of medical science just like anyone else. Now, as to making medical services available free of charge I leave it to others to decide whether such a plan should be contributory or not. I am not conversant with financial or legal matters. I am only a country doctor, practising in a rural community. I repeat that country folk are honest and proud. They would be very pleased if specialized medical services were easily available as it would prevent them from relying on public assistance. I am deeply concerned when I see my patients unable to benefit from the tremendous improvements made available by modern medical science. That is why, in order to help them, I intend to keep on practising. That is also why I urge the government to develop its social security program as quickly as possible.
The leader of the C.C.F. party made a fine speech. Listening to him, one feels that what he says sounds well and that he is right. I believe, however, that the government is even more justified in carrying on with its present policy, that is, in gradually supplying us with equipment, hospitals, specialists and technicians before organizing medical services on a wide scale as is urged by the leader of the C.C.F. I do not know how things are in Saskatchewan, but I may say to our political opponents that in the province of Quebec, some of my patients, because there is a shortage of beds, have long been awaiting their turn to be admitted to hospital. This means that, in the province of Quebec, we would be no further ahead, even with state medical services, since there are no beds available irr the various hospitals; sick people would therefore be no better off.
I therefore consider that the government has been most provident in extending to Quebec, as well as to the other provinces, sufficient funds to provide hospitals with extra beds and to assist them in training specialists, nurses, prominent surgeons, technicians of all ^kinds. This will allow us to help our people enjoy better health, thus making everybody happier.
Topic: NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE