Feb 7, 2009

The culture of entitlement


Don Copeman, of the infamous Vancouver clinic that bears his name, was plugging his business in Parksville’s local paper, the Oceanside Star. While doing so he managed to slag Canadians whose “culture of entitlement”, he charges, is the biggest obstacle to private clinics. “Trying to change the Canadian culture away from this culture of entitlement [is not easy),” he was quoted as saying.

Wow, life is tough.

Let’s look at this culture of entitlement and some of the stars who have struggled to beat it back. In fact, let’s start with the Copeman Healthcare company.

Copeman Healthcare Inc. charges $3900 to join, plus $2900 each year. Some might argue that these fees are way too high — even illegal, as the BC Health Coalition has asserted. But membership has its privileges, as American Express says. For this hefty fee you are entitled to, among other things, a “therapeutic lifestyle change” overseen by the company’s medical staff, access one of six doctors, a nutritional counselling, nurses, kinesiologists. Of course, Copeman & Co. argue that they are entitled to charge such fees, and to earn a profit by providing primary health care to the 3600 patients who have signed up.

Now, the REACH Community Health Centre, located on Commercial Drive in east Vancouver, also charges a membership fee — if you pay between $1 and $25 you can join the non-profit society, vote and run for the board of directors and participate on one of its committees. (Conflict of Interest declaration: I’m on the board.) But in this case, membership doesn’t have its privileges: you don’t have to sign up if you are among the 10 000 patients who access one of REACH’s six doctors, or its pharmacist, or its dental clinic, or one of the counsellors, nurse practitioners, or if you participate in the Multicultural Family Centre or the diabetes program.

A letter from REACH to the Parksville paper said that multi-disclipinary, non-profit clinics should be funded by the government. “Health care providers should not be entitled to high membership fees, high annual dues, or high profits from treating patients,” the letter concluded.