May 01, 2010

Round and Round and Round he goes

By Melvin J Howard

In Canada, there are three tiers of Government – Federal, Provincial, and Municipal. The Federal government is in charge of national security and immigration, among other areas. However, education and health care fall under the jurisdiction of Provincial governments, not federal. Having said that, as of April, 1984, the Federal government passed the Canada Health Act, giving them watch dog status over the country’s Provinces. The line is blurred over who has jurisdiction considering the Federal government can withhold funding, if the Province does not comply with their wishes. Throughout my efforts to bring a private medical facility to Western Canada, I often found support from the Provincial and Municipal Governments, and the private sector, but it was the Federal watch dogs that had a problem.

The following are excerpts from newspaper articles and letters referring to support given to me by government officials and the general public. Each of these documents can be found in full by copying and pasting the following link in your web browser and reading:

In an article in the Medical Post, dated January 11, 1994, Dr. Felix Durity, head of neurosurgery at the University of British Columbia and the Vancouver General Hospital is quoted saying, “My exclusive interest is that this technology should be available to the people of Canada, and I think it should be available to Western Canada. From an economic point of view, it makes good sense.” The technology Dr. Durity is referring to is the gamma knife technology. A gamma knife is a device used to treat brain tumors with a high dose of radiation therapy in one day and can be preformed with an EBT machine.

Later, in a joint letter from Dr. Durity and Thomas Keane, Provincial Program Leader in Radiation Therapy in British Columbia to myself, dated June 23, 1997, Dr. Durity wrote: “We are interested in your proposal to develop such a core facility within our academic centre and it is our preliminary understanding that you are intending to work within the medical service plans of British Columbia. We look forward to further fruitful discussion and mutual planning.”

In a letter from Randy Longmuir, the City of Parksville’s Mayor, dated March 4, 2003, he is quoted as saying, “We also welcome the opportunity for the private sector initiative in the delivery of these kind of services, as we know the Government cannot afford to do it all alone anymore.”

Ralph Kline, then Premier of Alberta, worked well with me bringing this technology to Canada. We worked with Imatron Inc., a subsidiary company of General Electric. In a press release from Imatron Inc., it stated:

“Great Northern Health Inc., headquartered in Reno, Nevada has purchased an Imatron EBT scanner to be installed at Holy Cross Clinic in Calgary, Alberta. The facility will be operated and managed by Great Northern Health Canada Inc., a related company comprised of Canadian healthcare professionals. The anticipated date of operation will be the end of June 2001.

Melvin J. Howard, Chairman and CEO of Great Northern Health Inc., stated, "Imatron's EBT technology has generated a great deal of interest in coronary artery scanning, or heart scanning, in Canada. We have received many inquiries from various cities regarding this 'state-of-the-art' diagnostic technology and plan to expand the number of EBT facilities in our network across Canada. This is just what Canada has been waiting for in terms of cutting-edge and modern healthcare."

Unfortunately, the Federal Government of Canada started to put pressure on Kline, threatening penalization to the Province, and the roadblocks rose up. In a letter to the Premier, from Prime Minister Harper’s office, dated April 3, 2006, Mr Harper is too smart of a politician to outright say you cannot make deals with private companies in the health care field. No, instead he very straightforwardly outlines the policy of the Canadian government, repeating how money should not be a factor in health care and private companies only confuse the initiative. He also goes on to say how Patient Wait Times are a priority of the Government and new, innovative ways to address this issue are needed, as long as they don’t involve the private sector.

The $3 million dollar machine sat in a Canadian warehouse for 5 months, un-used, until I was forced to ship it back to the United States and the deal crumbled. The hundreds of thousands of dollars in building improvements, along with the expense of the machine was a cost that the shareholders in my company had to absorb.

Bringing this initiative was intended to be good for Canada, as well as good for my company. I have over 300 shareholders I represent who supported my efforts, including many well respected, high profile Canadians. I do not want to ‘wage war’ on Canada, but I want to see justice served and ensure the spirit of competition is upheld, not to mention get our money back.