Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting Game

A status update from my friend's FB page this morning,,,, as a little reminder that while our Canadian health care system may feel like it's free and beneficial to all, and better to just be able to go to the doc and not get a bill - there are other ways that we 'pay'. Sacrificing quality for quantity (aka cost)?

""My f**king doctor's appointment, that I have been waiting NINE MONTHS for, was cancelled. Instead of tomorrow, it's mid-February. FML.""

Well she only has to wait another month so that's okay, right? This same person has traveled all the way to Calgary (3 hours) with her child for an appt at the Children's hospital with a specialist, only to find out upon arrival that it was canceled, more than once. It doesn't just happen to adults obviously. 

Is this a fair trade off? Having the province decide how many specialists they will pay in the province and not having any other option available to hire more? And having to wait eons for some appointments? As I have stated in previous posts, my boss suffered a stroke during the first week of June 2011. I was there. It happened at work. Her MRI and neurologist appt were in NOVEMBER 2011 and that was even after her own doctor, who is also a family member I might add, pushed for it to be brought up from January 2012. 

I was supposed to be set up with a neurologist in May 2011 but I still have not even had a phone call for a consultation let alone anything beyond that, for trigeminal neuralgia. This is the way we 'pay' - through lack of services, govt controlled number of specialists, and long waiting times. I wonder if that is really worth the cost. You would have to ask someone like my friend who's mother had to wait from August 2001  to February 2002 for surgery on a lung tumor, only to find out after the delay that the cancer spread to her brain somewhere between Oct and Feb and she died May 2002. No one will ever know if she would have had a fighting chance if her surgery had not been delayed (due to it being first booked on a holiday weekend and the surgeon was going away, so it was delayed 4 more months). 

Ask her family if they think that maybe paying a little bit more toward their health care directly would open the doors for more specialists and more services. I bet they might have a different opinion than what you see playing out in the media most of the time about how great it all is..


  1. The only way private paying would open more doors to specialists would be by forcing some people to go without.

    We don't have enough specialists in this country. We could train more. Of course, that would require government money, too, since all of our medical schools are in the public sector.

  2. That's where private funding comes in as well though. Look at how many hospitals only seem to manage to get new technology if they receive a great amount of private donations (from individuals and companies). Every year all of the hospitals in this province (AB) hold lotteries and/or telethons, and they greatly HUGELY rely on that type of funding to get the upgrades they need for equipment. My local hospital has had two years of telethons so far to try to buy two new baby warmers for the delivery room/NICU. The government funding is not enough to keep up with the amount of staff needed, the specialists required (example, there are NO allergists in my city and people have to go 3 hours away to get tested, and the waiting list is 1 to 2 YEARS even for a very young child - that's just asking for trouble), the support staff, nurses (when a hospital says it has no beds, it normally means they do not have enough staff to look after the patients - so they have lots of beds, all empty, but cannot fill them with patients), etc let alone equipment and upgrades.

    Health care takes up a monstrous amount of tax revenue already. It's just simply not working. One by one, provinces that originally installed a Prov Sales Tax and promised that it would fund their health care have started adding monthly premiums on top. Alberta, meanwhile, not having a PST, ends up cutting it's premium program and then surprise - there is a $1 billion a year difference between the budget and the costs - 1 billion in the hole every year. Alberta apparently spends over 10 billion dollars a year on health care . It might not sound as much when you break it down to be less than $3000 per person in the province each year - but then you start to realize why some people have to wait for ages and ages to get care - important care.

    The province budgets for the amount of procedures and patients a doctor or specialist can see or perform each year. If an eye surgeon is only budgeted to provide one glaucoma surgery a day, and there are only 5 in the province that can do it, people will have to wait. There is no funding for any more to be brought in because there is already no money left over. About the only thing I see working half the time is genuine emergency care - but that is a fund all to itself. If someone comes in during the throes of a heart attack, he/she does not get put on a 12 month waiting list. But if he/she recovers enough to survive, they WILL have to wait longer for more surgery, even if his specialist deems it necessary. My boss's husband is going through this right now. He had a heart attack 3 years ago and received some shunts and an angioplasty but his arteries are still over 70% blocked. His specialist is fed up with the system. He told him that he is not allowed to perform surgery unless he hits 90% blocked, or has another heart attack. a SPECIALIST is being told by bureaucrats behind a desk that he is not allowed to perform a surgery he deems necessary (as do 3 other heart specialists here in the city).... What kind of system is that?

    If there was an option to pay toward your own care, would that not bring more doctors in anyway? On it's own? They would be allowed to work extended hours and holidays if they wanted to, and slot in the public and private patients as they come along. But they would be getting some money directly instead of having to file their monthly claims and bills to the province. I do not see why that is a problem. If someone is on a waiting list that is 2 years long (like my mom's friend awaiting shoulder surgery and unable to work), and they can pay up front, that takes them to the front of the line BUT it also bumps up everyone that was in line behind them. If the doctor was only allowed to perform one surgery a week on the Alberta budget, he/she could perform 2 instead, one public, one private, and that line would shorten the waiting time in half. I do not see why people are afraid of that.

  3. I would not be able to pay for anything major, just so you know. I'm far from rich. But I know that if some of the more well-off people ahead of me in line paid privately for their neurologist appt, I could get bumped up by months and that would be great! Maybe if our taxes weren't quite so high, we could have a bit extra left out of our cheques to put away each month.

    But here is the example I use ALL the time now - look around at how many people think nothing of paying $300 a month, $500 a month, even $1000 a month - for a vehicle. They do it and think it's a 'right' to drive - but will flip out at the thought of having to pay something toward their own healthcare. Oh shock horror! I have subsidized mothers at my daycare center that drive SUVs for crying out loud. You are paying their children's healthcare (even prescriptions, all dental and eye, etc) under the Alberta Child Health Benefit program, and paying the vast majority of their daycare fee each month, and giving them $300 to $700 a month in CCTB, and who knows what else - so that they can still afford to buy a brand new SUV.

    that is what is wrong around here. $2000 a month for a mortgage, $1000 for a vehicle, and want to pay nothing for their own health care insurance. That is a serious problem whether anyone wants to face it or not. It keeps the have-nots and the haves as separate as anything = if not moreso. I am supposed to see a specialist in Calgary but cannot afford to go. How's that for wonderful socialized medicine? There is no endochrinlogist in my city and the wait for the ones in lethbridge is even longer.

    But my friend who lives in Charleston South Carolina can just open the phone book and call a specialist if she wants. There are 13 allergy specialists within a one hour drive from her home. Not just because there are a lot of towns around there, but because the system allows it. There is not even one allergy specialist within an hour of my home. And we cannot phone a specialist, we have to get a referral through our own family doctor, which can take ages too. When you see the waiting times on media sites for seeing a specialist, they count from the day you get a phone call from that office, not from the day you call your own doc for an appt and then ask for a referral. That can add a month or more as well, depending on the specialist and the problem.

    But in the end, my favorite comparison is how so many people think nothing of buying a new car or putting $200 worth of gas in it each month (minimum these days), but will freak right out at the prospect of contributing more directly to their own health care. I do not understand that.

  4. Oh lookie here - an example of private funding that is needed for our hospitals all the time..... I am a member of a preemie parent group and this article link was just posted about a Calgary family who is donating over $5 MILLION dollars to buy 14 neonatal beds for the NICU.

    Why is that wing still undeveloped after all this time? Because govt funding for the giant project was very minimal. The majority came from private donations through lotteries, companies, and individuals.



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