Health Care: It is an EQUAL Right

I was at the Georges Dumont Hospital this morning, and saw a number of signs (on hospital property?) related to our provincial election, reminding Premier Graham the French-language health care is a right.

I would like to remind the creators of those signs that health care is an equal right, and as such should be provided equally, fairly, and effectively to all citizens of the province regardless of language or any other characteristic. Unfortunately, this is not correctly the case in New Brunswick. We currently have two health care systems in the province – one of which is bilingual, and the other essentially unilingual French.

As we all know, our health care system (not just ours, but nation-wide) is at real risk of collapsing under its own cost. It is unsustainable as it currently exists. Add to that a situation in which there are two health care systems, each with its own management, bureaucracy, and other costs. With additional complexities created in trying standardize procedures and processes, and in establishing province wide programs to improve health care.

Why do we have this situation? Is this required in order to provide equal health care in both languages? NO. This situation is perpetuated purely to stroke the ego of one group within the province.

Do not misunderstand me (and don’t you dare misquote me!) – I fully support equal health care rights for everyone in the province. Does this require duplicate bureaucracies? NO! Any rational, reasonable, mature groups of people should be able to come to an agreement which eliminates  unnecessary overhead, and yet maintains equal quality of service for all New Brunswickers, and does so without giving one group in the province preferential treatment over others.

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US vs Canadian Healthcare – a follow up

A few weeks back I posted on my personal experience with US versus Canadian Healthcare

This week, I received the paperwork from my insurance company to sort out the expenses for my adventure in LA. Just to refresh your memory, while in LA I became very sick, and ended up going to an ER at a nearby hospital. While at the ER, I spent 8+ hours in the waiting room, and about 2 actually being treated. A doctor saw and evaluated me. I was monitored for heart rate, BP, etc., had some blood work, and was given an IV for fluids and some meds. I was then given a prescription and discharged.

The cost for this treatment? Just shy of $3500.

No wonder the healthcare system in the US is as screwed up as it is! 

Another thought on health care…

Well, I am sitting here writing a blog post because I am not at the hospital with my son for his jaw surgery that was scheduled for today. It was cancelled because the surgeon was called in for an emergency case which obviously took precedence.

My first thought (and I tweeted this) was “this is the downside of Canadian health care”. After a little reflection, however, I think that this is exactly what makes Canadian health care superior to American health care in the large. It shows that in the Canadian system, decisions are made based on who is in the most need, and the person in the most need gets the appropriate resources. Compare this to the US situation where the person with the most money or the best insurance will get the treatment, and the person with no money or insurance may never get anything beyond rudimentary care (if that).

This is inconvenient to me, and to my son, but it is not life threatening.

Once again, I will take the Canadian system, thanks.

US vs Canadian Healthcare – a story of personal experience

As anyone not in a coma knows, there is a great deal of debate in the US right now about Health Care Reform. During this debate, there are many references to the Canadian Health Care system, typically by Americans who have absolutely no idea what the hell they are talking about – including a former governor of Alaska. It is referred to as “socialized medicine”, and Americans argue that it reduces efficiency, costs the government great sums of money (note that the US government already spends more per capita on health care than the Canadian government does), reduces innovation, has longer wait times, and even leads to people dying while awaiting treatment.

I recently became ill while in Los Angeles for a conference. While being sick is never a fun experience, being diabetic and being sick while travelling in a foreign country by yourself is especially stressful.

However, this gave me an opportunity to experience the US health care system first hand, albeit a little superficially. Also, since my employer provides me with out-of-country health insurance, my experience is from the perspective of someone with health insurance, not someone without. In addition, my opinion of the US health care system is based on a single experience, not a broad sample.

Lets start with my arrival at the ER. I arrived at about 9 PM on a Tuesday evening.The first step was to fill out a little form with basic information – name, address, nature of my complaint. This form is passed through a little hole in the plexiglass partition, and my information is entered into their computer system. I then waited about an hour to see the triage nurse and be prioritized. Between myself, my wife and my kids, I have been at emergency rooms in New Brunswick, Ontario, and Alberta, and do not recall ever waiting more than a small number of minutes to be triaged. It should be noted that the triage process seemed to be mostly a “first in, first out” kind of process – I did not notice anyone being triaged faster based upon the nature of their complaint.

After being triaged, I guess I was ranked fairly low in terms of priority (hey, I was only vomiting up large amounts of blood), because I then sat from about 10 PM Tuesday evening until 4:30 AM Wednesday waiting to see a doctor. Many people came in, were treated, and left before I was seen, but I understand that once you are triaged, priority are based on who is at the most risk. I also understand that I was only seeing the “walk in” side of the ER – there was another whole flow of patients coming in through the ambulance entrance with a fair number of trauma patients. Still, 7 and a half hours of waiting to see a doctor is longer than anything I have seen in the Canadian health care system. And remember, I was at a private hospital in LA, not a public clinic. I would thus expect that this was on the good side with respect to performance.

Once I actually got to see the doctor, I was treated fairly quickly. Note that the goal was not to treat the root cause in my ailment, the primary intent was to stabilize my condition so that I could return to Canada for full treatment. At this, they were very efficient, and I was out in about 3 hours. It was also made much more smoothly because my out-of-country health coverage worked very well with the hospital’s admissions/accounting people with regards to payment. God only knows how the experience would have played out had I not had insurance.

In short, my visit to the ER in Los Angeles involved wait times which were significantly longer (for both triage and treatment) than anything I have ever experienced at a hospital in Canada.

To finish off the story, I will describe my follow-up treatment after returning to Canada. On the Wednesday following my return to Canada, I called my family doctor, and got an appointment to see her that afternoon. After that appointment, she referred me to a GI specialist, who I saw the next afternoon. He decided I needed an endoscopy, which happened the next day. Seems pretty efficient to me!

Perhaps Americans (especially American citizens) should educate themselves on the reality of the Canadian Health Care System rather than blindly believing the rhetoric of their politicians who are bought and paid for by the insurance companies and HMOs, or simply know nothing about the Canadian system which they are criticizing.