At some point, statistics, pie charts and nonsensical committees designed to monitor a problem simply pour vinegar into ongoing wounds. Welcome to the stagnation of the Canadian Healthcare System.
While data and statistics are most certainly important, there has to be a tipping point. For decades, waiting lists for healthcare procedures in Canada continued to bring attention to the plight. With wait times in 2014 from a general practitioner to receipt of treatment growing by 96 percent longer compared to 1993, the Canadian Healthcare System has hit the cord of crisis.
What more telling evidence is there to prove the Canadian Medicare System is in the end stages of life? The answer is in the faces of more than 900,000 Canadians in pain. What if we were to include a visual of those lives that are now a statistic? Perhaps, fear in the eyes of a mother whose child has stopped thriving might affect change. Maybe the tears of a recently retired man who worked hard to earn an honest living, but now cannot do anything including sleep because his back prevents him from participating in his own life. Pain holds him hostage and his emotional strength declines as his body surrenders to the anguish.
Maybe a snapshot of every Canadian waiting for an “elective” bone-on-bone joint replacement might provoke changes. Elective suggests choice. If that is the case and enduring tremendous pain is a patient option, then let’s devise a new bar graph showing those that elect to remain in pain for years opposed to those that would choose to receive immediate healthcare and improve their quality of life. Can the tears of every family member who has cried himself or herself to sleep with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness be collected?
Taking Care of People
Would any of these scenarios bring back compassion – the most critical element of healthcare? Our experiences lately are off-kilter. People are not taking care of people. The Canadian Healthcare System is a prime example. It is not taking care of its people.
There is the saying, “when you know better, you do better.” Canadians deserve much better. How can we continue to boast about our brilliant surgeons and cutting edge facilities when we are only utilizing them a fraction of the time, especially in the face of unmet demand? We are indeed straitjacketed by ideology. Evolution is avoided at all costs and the death toll is rising.
Canadians, as a culture, revere their healthcare system — not for performance, but more so for potential. On paper, the system looks simply marvelous and promises what we think we have, but instead learn we don’t when we need it most. Some of the blame belongs to the patient population itself. When there is no pressure to pay for a service, there is an ease to seek without considering over consumption. This has led to overuse.
Another interesting paradigm borne of the “free healthcare” mentality is that since Canadians are not digging into their wallets at the time of treatment, they do not assimilate the service as a purchase. This means that because they remain relatively unaware of an acquisition, they are seemingly more likely to accept mediocrity.
There is merit to the thought that if a Canadian patient was to pay a service fee they would also expect to receive that service in a timely, efficient and respectful manner. Many patients will spend hours waiting in a family practitioners office for an appointment or months, even years waiting for a specialist. They will miss work, lose income and suffer great frustration during these periods of limbo; however, once they are in front of the doctor they will contain their frustrations in order not to compromise a relationship with their perceived lifeline. The thought of losing their chance to feel better is just too daunting given the risk of losing face time with a physician.
Mixed Bag of Healthcare
The way in which healthcare is organized in Canada is misunderstood by most-including Canadians. Most describe healthcare as “free” despite that being far from the case. Canada, in comparison to other public healthcare systems, is quite unique. Canada has a mixed bag of public and private coverage for pharmaceuticals and offers limited home care and acute long-term care, depending on the province.
Services, such as eye care, chiropractic or dentistry are rarely, if ever, covered. An increasingly unmet demand challenges the Canadian Healthcare System. And will continue to do so as the baby boomer population ages. This unmet demand exists within a system of underutilized capacity. How can the healthcare system be so disconnected and brag about our facilities and specialists when we allow patients in desperate need of care to remain suffering?
The rationale, or excuse, behind this problem points to economics, but there are methods to reverse that. The government can empower the waiting patients with the choice to pay privately. For each patient that elects to pay for a procedure another — either unwilling or unable to pay – moves along the waiting list and closer to a surgical date. In the meantime, the healthcare system receives the infusion of needed capital. Conversely, the University Health Network in Toronto has been taking in international patients for orthopedic procedures to the tune of 30 million unaccounted-for-dollars. Yet, a Canadian citizen who has contributed to the economy, pays taxes and lives 30 minutes from that same hospital is denied even the option to buy his or her way out of pain.
A national healthcare system must provide Canadians with the ability, and funding, to obtain treatments in a timely manner. Since this cannot be secured within our own borders, we must demand the right to obtain these medical tourism services elsewhere. Funding for these offsite services should be offered within our own system until our patients no longer linger in pain while waiting for a broken system to address their needs. Wake up Canada! Take back control of healthcare decisions. Take back control of the healthcare funding you have paid for, take back control of your life!
About the Author
Kelly Meloche, President of International HealthCare Providers Inc., an Ontario-based company that connects Canadians to private medical care solutions.