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Americans must think we Canadians are pretty stupid.

…if they really think that we allow our health care system to pull the plug on Grandma if her care becomes too expensive.

OK, I’m getting real sick, real fast of all of this crap going down in the U.S. about health care. Henry Champ has penned a good “lay of the land” piece on the website today.  Called “Decorum takes a holiday in the health-care debate”,  Mr. Champ outlines some of the misinterpretations and outright lies being tossed around by the right wing-nut sector in America. Busing in and stacking so-called “Town Hall” meetings, the anti sane-and-equitable-health-care-system dimwits are holding Canada’s system up as something that falls somewhere between socilised death camps and an Orwellian bureaucracy. Which is totally farcical and frankly, an insult to me as a Canuck.

As I have pointed out before, our system is by no means perfect and can stand to be reviewed with a critical eye. Wait times are too long – especially outside the major centres. There are other issues that are broken and need to be fixed. But overall, I have been fairly happy with what we have and I say this having three kids – all of whom have needed medical of one type or another – as well as my own experiences. In fact, I can think of only one instance involving my family where I feel the care was inadequate.

Not a bad average.

So, for my American readers, and I know there are a few, I humbly submit the following list of facts about our health care system.  This is not propaganda. I am not paid by anyone to do this. I simply want to, in my own very minor way,  correct some of the falsehoods that are circulating.

1) Grandma will NOT be unplugged by “the system”. Only the family can do this. And the family will not do this for want of money to pay medical bills. It is utterly ridiculous that this is being bantered about.

2) Medical bills. We don’t get them. Usually. There are some services that one does have to pay for depending on what part of the country you are in and the policies of your own doctor’s practice. Sick notes, for example, as well as some inoculations, cosmetic procedures, etc., are not covered. Here is a link to a medical office here in Ottawa which lists which services are for a fee. All other services are covered by the plan.

3) Access to care. Yes, there is a shortage of family physicians and specialists. No doubt. I know folks who have looked all over for a family doctor who is accepting patients but to no avail. BUT, this does not mean that they do not have access to care. There are many, many walk-in clinics who take anyone with a health card. The waiting room time varies, but if you are going in for a minor ailment, time your visit accordingly and it usually takes very little time to see a physician. And of course there is always Emerg… but don’t go unless neccesary. It is very expensive, can take a while to see someone and really, that ingrown toenail can’t be tended to by your family physician or at a clinic? However, the triage at the ER will NOT turn someone away.

For specialists, the problem is more acute. Though I have had no problem whatsoever in getting access to a specialist for one of my kids who had infected lymph nodes. We saw a pediatric surgeon the day after our family doc referred us. A pediatric ENT specialist and an infectious diseases doctor soon followed – again with a very short wait.  Of course we in Ottawa are very fortunate to have one of the world’s foremost children’s hospitals.

4) There are some patients who are treated in the corridors due to lack of space. Yes, due to a woeful lack of funding in some hospitals, this is sometimes the case. But from my own experiences (a physician would be more qualified to comment on this) this is the exception and not the rule. I have been hospitalised twice in my life, had a few day-surgeries and two my kids have all had stays and never were left in the halls and nor did I see anyone in the corridors.  Four different hospitals in 4 different parts of Ontario. Maybe it is worse on other provinces.

Our system has some warts and flaws. It is expensive but on a per cpaita basis, I believe it is cheaper than Medicare in the U.S. – though I’d have to verify that. Yet at what price care? Isn’t a sign of an advanced society the willingness to look after the health of its citizenry; ALL of them? Does Canada need to reform its system? Of course. We need some ilk of a two-tier system where all of the population is guaranteed basic care – NO ONE should evr be turned away due to ability to pay. But we should consider the options.

Is our medical delivery system completely broken? No way. Just a little rusty. And I hope (naively) that the morons to the south who are buying the script depicting our system as a dreadfully inefficient, anachronistic, unconstitutional waste of dollars would do a little research and learn that it really isn’t that bad.


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  1. trashee says:

    I’m sorta with ya squid-dude. But I dunno if training at an early age is the answer – but it may be a start. I too have seen the “wtf are they doing here cases” while at emerg with my 105 degree fever kid/ dehydrated kid/ kid with separated elbow.
    LOL re: the chainsaw – that reminds me of a guy that used to work for my dad and I. A real piece of work – way too casual about chainsaws. Stuck the bar in toe forst without a firm grip and the saw kicked back and slashed him across the neck… 60-odd stitches if I recall. I thought he was dead… blood gushing like an oil well and all that. His own bloody fault. Lazy bastard.
    But ya know what? He got great emerg care at our small town hospital and all was good. Though I think we fired him soon after….

    1. You wouldn’t believe how many times in my life I’ve had to say to someone “dude, stop the chainsaw, put it down, and just step away.” My favourite is guys who cut up logs with the chainsaw between their legs… one jump and it’s a chainsaw to the face or to the nads. Either way, it’s not good.

      I’m convinced that the two biggest problems facing our health care system today are:

      1. piss-poor administration (too many chiefs, not enough indians, mostly)
      2. reckless abuse by an entitlement-minded populace who, as noted in my previous post, have no concept of what things are that require a doctor.

  2. I’ve said this for years, and I wish someone in a position of power would look into it more: A major problem with Canadian health care is that people take it for granted – it’s a cultural problem.

    By that, I mean that people run to the doctor, or worse – to emergency, for trivial issues that 25 or 50 years ago would have been treated with a couple aspirins dispensed by the concerned parent or spouse. This sort of whiny “I have a little pain, I have to see a doctor NOW and get a prescription” attitude is now deeply rooted in Canadian culture, and it’s a huge drain on the health care system. This sort of thing doesn’t happen in the USA because showing up at the doctor or hospital for trivial issues is going to cost you.

    We need a way to convince people that not every bump, scratch or itch requires a medical team to examine and write out a prescription. In essence, Canadians need to “man up” a bit.

    I’ve been to emergency 5 times in the last 20 years. Each time, I’ve received what I would consider to be reasonable and appropriate care:

    1. I showed up with asthma (too much time near cats – ugh). I couldn’t breathe and Ventolin wasn’t cutting it. I was treated in minutes.

    2. I showed up with heartbeat issues. I was hooked up in about 1 minute. No worries, this squid was not having a heart attack – turns out I used to drink too much coffee.

    3. Twice I showed up with breathing difficulty due to pneumonia in the wee hours when no clinics were open. I was treated in a few hours.

    4. I showed up with blurring vision from an unknown cause. I was treated in a few hours when it was determined that there was nothing life-threatening wrong with me. This seems reasonable.

    Now, while I was there, I did notice that the emergency room certainly seemed to be filled with people who were not in dire straits. I’m serious here when I say I saw children with sniffles, a woman who I swear just wanted someone to talk to, umpteen “headaches”, and the story I often talk about – the guy who woke up with a zit. Now, emerg can’t turn them away, but it’s fair to say that all those people were WASTING health care dollars. Maybe the headache people had brain tumours, but I’m willing to wager it was something more like hangover, or “didn’t have a coffee today”.

    What Canada needs is an education program that teaches people how to access health care APPROPRIATELY, and some general first-aid training (I’d put it starting at about grade 7 and every year until the end of high school) so that more people have an idea how to separate a hangnail requiring some polysporin out of the family medicine cabinet from a chainsaw wound requiring immediate medical assistance.

  3. XUP says:

    Yes, Medicare costs more per capita than our health care system; but our health care system is still getting way too much money pumped into it for the services we receive. It’s not that our hospitals are woefully underfunded, it’s that the funding is not allocated properly. The sensible thing to do would be to fund hospitals based on the number of patients it processes and the type/amount of patient care it dispenses. That’s how the European client-based health care systems work. Instead, our hospitals just get random chunks of money that they budget as they see fit. There is no incentive to provide better care; no incentive to take more patients; no incentive to provide up-to-date diagnositics. Instead they scrape by

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