Friday, December 12, 2008

Health Care Revisited

Hmm what a surprise - more examples of how Universal Health Care is not the glorious program it may appear to be at first glance. Canadians do 'enjoy' benefits that many other countries admire, but it comes at a price. It always does.

My mother's doctor has suddenly decided to go into Emergency Medicine only. He is closing his general practice at the end of the month,leaving well over 1000 people in this small city without a doctor. What is their option? The only option is to line up at the medical clinics and wait for hours, if they even get in at all. Or to sit in emergency for 4+ hours just to see someone about getting a prescription for a bad cough. Why? Because NO FAMILY DOCTORS here are taking patients. They haven't been for years. No one has any room. Don't believe me? Then check out THIS LIST from the local health authority. Note that the only ones taking patients are out of town, approx one hour's drive. All others are pediatric patients only, or a waiting list over a year long. The same is echoed around the country but it seems to be even worse for them. In Alberta we had to pay a monthly premium for basic care for many years, so there was always some money going into the system. Why do you think people from neighbouring provinces come here to be treated? I often see Saskatchewan residents at the hospital and clinics, and when I lived 20 minutes from the British Columbia border, I saw those residents coming into Alberta for their treatment. Why? Because they would be seen faster than in their own provinces. Which is curious actually, because BC is the only province I know of that has both Sales Tax AND Health Care premiums.. My ex's mother fought to get treated for Breast Cancer at an Alberta hospital even though she lived in BC because the closest centre in her province was 8 hours away. The Alberta one was only 2.5 hours away. But she had to fight for that option. Unreal.

But I digress again. My point is, my 63 year old mother who has had terrible problems with a sore on her leg that has not healed for THREE YEARS, a woman with chronic high blood pressure and schlera derma - no longer has a family doc and won't be getting one anytime soon. If this country is so awesome with it's health care programs, why is this happening? When I first moved back to my home town 4.5 years ago, I was luckier than hell to get a doctor. There was ONE on the list that was taking patients for his general practice. In a city of over 60,000 people, many are without any sort of regular care from a single doctor or practice. That is sickening. To make matters worse, if walkin clinic is from 6-8pm, people are lining up by 5 and if you get there at 605pm, chances are the CLOSED sign will already be up. So many people are already there, they close before they are barely even open. I have had to turn around and go home with my two young children before because walkin was closed before it actually opened. Why didn't I make an appt with my family doc? Well - that would be because it can take 3-6 weeks to get in because they are SO overloaded with patients. If I have pneumonia, I guess I might be dead by the time I get to my appointment? How nice!

THAT is the beauty of Universal Health Care my friends. Inconsistent care, lengthy waiting times, severe lack of doctors and specialists, unbelievably packed waiting rooms in clinics and hospitals... If you are from the US and reading this and thinking "well, we already have long line ups, who cares?" - I urge you to THINK about this. If the lines are long now, what will happen if a more Universal plan is implemented? If every Suzy and Joe can head to the doc for every sniffle or sliver and not have to worry about paying, how long are those lines going to BE now? And when doctors find themselves with over 2000 patients each, with more calling and begging to be added to their list each day, they burn out. I watched a documentary on that a few months ago where many doctors in Canada are burning out and retiring well before age 65. They are exhausted and feel like they are not able to give people the care they first imagined they would be able to. So they quit. And a few more thousand people are without a doctor each time.

This country has just over 30 million people in it. What would happen in a country with over THREE HUNDRED million people? My god... seriously, think about it.

I believe that children and disabled people (mentally physically etc) should have access to care without worrying about the cost because it is not their fault or their choice when they need help. An innocent child has no control over their parents' income or health care plan, so I do think that certain groups of people should be helped. But everyone? Seriously.. where will the money come from? Higher taxes so that the next problem is more people not being able to afford a home because their cheques are chopped into tiny pieces and strewn across the country to the benefit of The People? The money has to come from somewhere and I will keep saying that forever. It comes from your pocket, where else? How much are you willing to give up for these kinds of programs?

And meanwhile, in the richest province, in the country with an admired health care system, my mother has no family doctor. They are no longer returning her calls about where to get more prescriptions for her leg (it is a special skin antibiotic that many other doctors have refused to give her at walkins and keep telling her to see her family doc!!!). She is left in the mire, looking up old fashioned poultices online to try instead (but hey, maybe one will work - as long as she doesn't give herself gangrene, I will cross my fingers that she finds something that helps). That is the glorious amazing all-encompassing health care system of Canada at work. Moving to the nearest bigger city won't help either because 10% of the population of Calgary is without a family doctor as well (according to the documentary I saw). That is over 100,000 people without a doc. I wonder how many in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton etc are without doctors. Last I heard, the stats for Canada are 5,000,000 people without the continuity of care that a family doctor can provide. Wow. And soon, that will increase because a disproportionately large number of doctors are set to retire here within the next few short years.

I have heard on the news that more med students are enrolling now, but that means a wait of 5-7 years at least. What do we do in the meantime?

Oh yeah - that's right - line up at the walkin clinics, only to be told to see our family doctor (who doesn't exist). Great!

O Canada!

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