Think back to 2014. That’s when Loblaw Companies (Loblaws, President’s Choice) stunned the food industry with the purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart. Why the heck would a super market chain want to get into the pharmacy business? Well as we all know now when we stroll the isles of Shoppers food is a natural fit as with pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. In fact, when we look back we now realize that supermarkets had been on the edges of health convenience products in stocking products like toothpaste and aspirins in their stores.
Loblaws has now decided to take a big step up the health services ladder. It’s made a multi-million-dollar purchase of Lifemark, a health services company. It operates holistic stand-alone health care clinics that provide physiotherapy, massage therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic and mental health therapy along with a range of ancillary services. The plan is to create a national network of healthcare professionals who are connected to patients through Loblaw’s mobile app, PC Health — named after the retailer’s in-store brand, President’s Choice.
This just announced step shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, there may well be plans to take yet another step or two up the health services ladder. Health professionals are provincially regulated. Ontario, the elephant in the room has 26 self-regulated health professions while a smaller province like New Brunswick has 22.
Yes, we do need doctors and nurses. However, the Canadian public health care system is doctor driven rather than being holistically health care focused. There is a long and convoluted history of how doctors and hospitals became the primary players in publicly funded Canadian health care. It evolved in an era when the health paradigm was all about caring for physically ill people with a delivery system dominated by doctors, nurses and hospitals supported by a profitable private sector pharmaceutical industry.
Contemporary society is now embracing a new paradigm that views health as holistic with a focus on physical, mental and emotional wellness. The politics of public health care funding with its ongoing tug of war between the federal and provincial governments has created a stalemate. Public health care is stuck with physician and hospital costs ballooning in a futile effort to restrict health care and cut costs. The horrendous COVID 19 fallout with so many deaths attributed to aging patients in hospitals and nursing homes has laid bare the deficiencies of the outdated public health care system.
The Loblaw purchase is an example of how the private sector is stepping into the public health care void coming to the rescue. However, there is an important caveat to all of this. Employees and retirees with private sector group benefit plans are able to access holistic health care services. New economy professionals and para-professionals with good jobs in the “gig” service economy are also are also buying into holistic health care in a big way. Chiropractors, masseurs and physiotherapists are busy that’s attested by clients being put on waiting lists. The new generation in the new economy are embracing the holistic health is wealth mantra.
This is creating a two -tier health services market. Those who can are accessing a comprehensive range of holistic services that will keep them physically and mentally healthy for many years. Those who can’t are left waiting in the wings for federal and provincial governments to put an end to the feud over funding for an antiquated 20th century public health care system that’s costing more and delivering less in the way and get the 21st century and embrace the mantra of holistic health care.
John G. Kelly
Mentoring & Counselling