ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland — The premier of Canada's east coast province is undergoing heart surgery in the United States this week because the treatment he is seeking was not available in his home province.
The announcement about of Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams' plans has triggered a debate since Canada prides itself on its universal health care system.
Kathy Dunderdale, the province's deputy premier who is taking over in his absence, said Tuesday that Williams decided to go to the U.S. for surgery after weeks of consultation with his doctors. She did not say where in the U.S. he would seek care.
Dunderdale says having the surgery done in the province was never an option. But she wouldn't comment on whether the type of surgery Williams was having was available elsewhere in Canada.
In Newfoundland, opposition Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones offered Williams her wishes for his full recovery. But she said he owes the public more of an explanation about exactly what procedure he needs and why he felt it necessary to go to the U.S.
Williams, 60, is an independently wealthy former lawyer and businessman who donates his premier's salary to charity.
He will take from three to 12 weeks to recover and will speak publicly about his condition once he is well enough to do so, Dunderdale said.
"Ultimately we have to be the gatekeepers of our own health," Dunderdale said.