To the socialist planners in Ontario’s medical industry, the entrepreneurial doctor is a serious danger – one that needs to be extinguished as soon as possible lest patients realize that there is a better way. There is no better example of this than the case of Dr. Karen Dockrill. Dr. Dockrill, a licensed pediatrician by trade, exercised an honorable degree of entrepreneurial spirit when she opened the Mom and Baby Depot, a business that provided child rearing services and advice to parents who paid a yearly membership fee. According to the National Post, Mom and Baby Depot provided “a range of services not covered by medicare, including appointments with dieticians and breast-feeding consultants, around-the-clock telephone access and even a gymnasium, earning rave reviews from many patients.”
The Health Minister of Ontario and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) went into full attack mode when they learned of Dr. Dockrill’s capitalist activities. They not only crippled her business but also gravely impacted her professional life. It appears that the CPSO wanted to make an example of her, too. As Ottawa lawyer Karen Selick, Litigation Director for the Canadian Constitution Foundation, wrote “Even now… operations like the Mom and Baby Depot seem ‘rampant.’” After all, there is no better way to dissuade others from certain activities than to put the heads of transgressors on pikes.
Dr. Dockrill fought the attack. However, she didn’t stand a chance. After going “many hundreds of thousands of dollars” into the red, she settled with her accusers. The CPSO had accused her of “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct” and she admitted the allegations to settle the case.
She has since moved to Buffalo, New York, where entrepreneurship and medicine still coexist. The loss to her Canadian customers is great – she was highly valued by them. Now the people of Buffalo will benefit from the presence of her medical practice and business acumen.
Dr. Doug Mark, President of The Ontario Coalition of Specialists and Family Physicians, correctly observed, “The college just wiped her off the map. I think it went too far… They seem to be the henchman for the government, to keep an archaic, monopolized health care system going.” It is not unreasonable to conclude that the goal was to wipe her off the map because her business, if left to operate, would have shown-up the central planners in Ontario’s Ministry of Health.
It is disturbing that Ontario’s medical industry spontaneously “ejected” the very type of person that it needs to be successful. Ontario needs entrepreneurial doctors, not state employees. Rather than subjecting innovative doctors to financial and professional terror, the Minister of Health should be celebrating doctors who provide medical alternatives that are loved by customers.
Socialized health care not only scares entrepreneurial doctors out of the country but it also greatly reduces the efficiency and morality of medical service delivery. Mises Canada contributor Greggory Cummings stated that Canadians waited for over 870,000 medical procedures in 2012. In the UK, doctors have been instructed to allocate medical resources according to the future tax value of patients. Old patients have low value and are therefore allocated the least resources – so much for egalitarianism. The Soviet Medical Nightmare, by Yuri Nicholas Maltsev, describes the inevitable endpoint of socialized medicine: corrupt doctors and hospital managers, inferior medicines and medical delivery and high rates of death. Ontario’s medical industry has not yet achieved this extreme end point but it is well on its way.
The lack of efficiency in the medical industry is predictable. By socializing health care, the essential profit, price and competition mechanisms of an otherwise healthy industry are prevented from functioning. Ludwig Von Mises discovered that in a socialist system, economic calculation is impossible. Hence, the value of one investment or expenditure cannot be weighed against another. The mechanisms by which a free economy efficiently allocates resources and provides maximum benefit to customers cease to operate when central planners decide everything. Therefore, Ontario’s Minister of Health will necessarily fail in the provision of medical services in a manner demanded by customers.
In addition, the magnitude of the challenge of centrally managing an industry as complex as health care is well beyond the capabilities of any bureaucracy. Think of the monumental decisions that need to be continually made: How many doctors and nurses should be trained each year and in what specialties? How many ambulances should be purchased and how many paramedics should be employed? How many hospital beds should be provided and in what variety? What money should go to hospital surgeries versus disease prevention efforts? What amount of money should be allocated to medical care versus road repair or school operations? Should everyone have access to the exactly the same medical services? Mises contributor Mark Stobnicki has argued for the un-bundling of health care. But in the present system, there is no ability to determine what to un-bundle or how to un-bundle it.
Making matters worse, F. A. Hayek discovered that it is not possible for central planners to gather enough accurate information to make informed decisions. Plus, by the time a decision has been made, the marketplace has moved on. In a socialist system, decisions are always being made to satisfy a subset yesterday’s demands.
Note that none of these problems exist in industries that are free. Consider food growing and distribution. In spite of the fact that some farmers are highly regulated (e.g., dairy farmers), most farmers are relatively free to grow what they want when they want. Food producers and distributors are equally free to provide whatever the market demands. Prices, profits and competition ensure that Canada’s food industry does not suffer from the chronic waiting lines, poor service, poor management and poor products that plague the medical industry. Some might argue that health care is too important to hand over to private entrepreneurs. But, isn’t food supply a vastly more important industry than health care? If Galen Weston can run a national food manufacturing and distribution chain that delights customers with an absolutely critical service – the provision of food – then couldn’t an entrepreneurial counterpart(s) do the same in the health care industry?
Rather than having Dr. Dockrill’s head on the proverbial pike, would it not make sense to bring the people responsible for her harassment to justice? After all, it is certainly not Dr. Dockrill who is guilty of disgraceful, dishonourable and unprofessional conduct. What is to be said of Canadian values and morality if her tormentors are left to wreak additional havoc by crushing future medical entrepreneurs?
When the laws of the land cease to be moral and when they destroy the free spirit of man then a civil society descends into corruption and chaos. Ontario’s medical industry cannot be turned around as long as the central planners are in charge. In the meantime, entrepreneurial doctors like Dr. Dockrill will flee abroad. The average citizen will continue to be the loser.
1) A comment at the end of a National Post article about Dr. Dockrill’s plight claims to be authored by Dr. Dockrill. The second paragraph begins, “Like the CMA, I fully support Universal Healthcare and want to see it expanded to include pharmacare, dental, eye care and longterm care. I believe this is doable but creative financing models need to be explored.” Regardless of her identify, the author of the comment needs to look no further than the financial model that has been proven for generations: a free industry that provides better products and services through profit, prices and competition. No centrally-planned “creative” financial models will satisfy market demands the way that a free industry can.