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11 Comments Canadian Health Care: Time for an Honest Dialogue

Article written by Boris Bozic on the 24 Jul 2013 in Canada,Family,Personal,Politics

I’ve been a little tardy with my posts recently. No earth shattering reason why other than life events and other priorities taking precedent. For example, last week I spent a fair bit of time contemplating the Canadian Health Care system. I did all this “deep” thinking while visiting the hospital and spending countless hours in an emergency room. I wasn’t the patient, my brother Tom was. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version.

"The only way the system will change is if we, the majority of Canadians, force the politicians into doing something."

My brother started experiencing sharp stomach pains early last week. My brother has a high threshold for pain so when he mentioned that he was experiencing pain my radar went off immediately. The next day the pain persisted and became more pronounced. I told him to go to emergency but he said: “I’m going to give it another day because I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I’m sure it will be better tomorrow.” Tomorrow came and so did more pain. Off to the doctor he went. His family physician ordered an ultrasound, and upon review of the results, the doctor’s diagnosis was that the pain was probably caused by gas. He prescribed what amounts to nothing more than antacids. A few hours later I called my brother to see how he’s doing and he answered “not well.” I told him I didn’t give a damn what his doctor said, we had to get him to emergency immediately. He agreed and his wife took him to the hospital.

My brother got to emergency at 5:30pm and after a few hours the doctor treating him ordered another ultrasound. At midnight the doctor notified my brother that he wasn’t going anywhere. His appendix had ruptured and surgery would be required. We’re still not sure how his family physician mistook gas for a ruptured appendix, but needless to say my brother will not require his services ever again.

I couldn’t make it to the emergency room until 9:30pm that evening. To see my brother sitting there, I.V. attached to him, resting his head on the wall in an attempt to get relief, just killed me. I’m wired to fix things and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do. I was sitting next to my brother when the doctor came at midnight to tell him he wasn’t going anywhere because his appendix would have to be removed. He apologized and said he might have to sit in the waiting room until the morning because there weren’t any beds available. My mind started to race and I thought I would go home, get a reclining lawn chair from my backyard and set up a makeshift bed so he could get some comfort. To everyone’s relief a nurse came forward and said that she had a solution, bless her heart. She found a gurney for him to lay down on in one of the examination rooms.

Once my brother was comfortable, due in large part to the morphine drip, I could retreat to my own thoughts. Of all the voices in my head, the loudest one was saying, “how can a country with a standard of living such as ours, reduce health care to this?” To be absolutely clear, our doctors, nurses, technicians, support staff etc., do an amazing job. It’s the strain and the weight of the system that leaves medical practitioners no choice but to keep patients waiting hours for treatment and in some cases, left sitting in hallways to wait for a bed to become available. The responsibility for the state of our health care system today falls squarely on the shoulder of our policy makers. Politicians in our country do not have the courage to confront the sacred cow, better known as universal health care.

For the record (in the event I decide to enter into politics one day and someone claims that I once said that the sick should be left to die on the sidewalk because they couldn’t afford health care) I believe every Canadian has a fundamental right to health care, irrespective of economic standing. But I also believe it is irresponsible to continue on a path that will ultimately lead to a poorer standard of health care and ultimately bankrupt the system. It’s time for us to have an honest dialogue and dismiss those who always invoke the class warfare argument when this subject is broached.

Allowing for a multi-tiered health care system does not mean that the poor and indigent would not have free access to health care. It would mean that there would be different ways to distribute health care, thus relieving some of the pressure on government funded health care. A user pay system or some form of privatization will have to be a part of the solution. By the way, it’s creeping into our system already. For example, there are two private health care facilities within walking distance of my office. I know this because I’m a member of one. I pay an annual fee and that accords me the right to access a doctor, nutritionist, physiotherapist etc. I had to join because when I moved back to Toronto from Vancouver, I had a hard time finding a family doctor. Why? Offices were not taking new patients. So much for universal health care.

I’ll gladly pay, on top of what I already pay through taxes, for the ability to see a doctor. Being a member of a private health care facility does not mean I get bumped up in the queue for tests. In the last two years I needed to have an MRI and C-SCAN and in both cases the wait time was between 4 to 6 weeks. At my request the private facility arranged for the tests to be done in Buffalo, New York, at a cost of approximately $250 per test. I had the tests done within 48 hours. I would have gladly paid that sum for the ability to have the test done in my own country. Maybe I’m missing something but I think private clinics would lessen the burden on the government system, thus increasing the efficiency of care.

Our multi-tiered system is also made obvious when we look at how athletes receive treatment. Why is it the case that if I’m a professional hockey player in this country and I hurt my knee on a Saturday night, an MRI is done on Sunday, and the surgery is on Monday? Could the teams be paying for it directly? I wonder. Should we believe that MP’s, Cabinet Ministers, and the PM himself would wait 4 to 6 weeks for an MRI, or wait in the emergency room for 8 hours? Once again, just wondering.

The only way the system will change is if we, the majority of Canadians, force the politicians into doing something. A politician has two primary goals: getting elected and then getting re-elected. Up until now, doing nothing about the health care systems hasn’t cost them votes. There will be no change unless that changes.

Back to my brother, he’s recovering and doing well. Not back to normal but getting close. One thing about this ordeal is we learned about our father’s brush with appendicitis. It happened back in 1966. One night my dad was in excruciating pain. My mom called their family physician, in the evening no less, and the doctor did what doctors did at that time. The doctor made a house-call, took one look at the condition my dad was in and proceeded to escort him to his own car and he drove my dad to the hospital. My dad was operated on within an hour of arrival.

Until next time



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Michele Hall @Twitter ID Website Reply

I hear you. My parents are older. We had a scare over new years, we went by ambulance to RVH ( local hospital) they left my step dad on a gurney for over 12 hours. In the mean time my mother is having chest pains and needs to be seen, but they want to make sure its life or death before she will go to the hospital as they are afraid to waste 12 hours on a stretcher again. I was taken by ambulance a couple of years ago with suspected heart issue, was not seen for 16 hours as they were taking ambulances from North York first. Our health care system needs to be run like a business not a leaky boat that we are trying to patch.

Andrew Furino @Twitter ID Website Reply

Well written and I could not agree more. It is up to the electorate to demand that this issue be looked at. Perhaps even elect a courageous individual willing to tackle the issue. Not holding my breath though.

Glad to hear Tom is doing well Boris – please extend my best wishes to him. That’s too close for comfort on what could be a dangerous situation if he tried to persist with the pain.

Hi Boris,
Your brother was very fortunate things didn’t turn worse with a ruptured appendix.
I’ve seen some big strong men thrown down for months due to the poison that comes from the rupture. He had someone looking over him. All the best in his recovery. (and the recovery of the health care system).

HI Boris. Similar story with my brother just out side Ottawa, local physician diagnosed his chest pains as having heart issues but nothing serious they would set up an appointment with a cardiologist and have it checked out he waited a month and nothing…turns out they lost his file. Another 6 weeks passes he finally gets to the heart institute in Ottawa and they do their tests. Gets in the car to drive the 60 miles home and gets a call to come back to the hospital as they were admitting him. He had three blocked arteries that required stents, our family history is our dad died in 72 from a massive heart attack at 49 yrs of age, I have a stent for a blockage I received at 49 and of course my brother is 50. I don’t claim to be a medical professionals but when some one with that family history comes to your office with chest pains you would think you’d at least keep him for observation. It is a tough system but the level of skill of our doctors gives me need for concern, I now ask where they graduated from and where they finished in their class.


I recommend the book; Chronic Condition

Christopher Molder @/sonofabroker Website Reply

Hey Boris, well written post thank you for sharing. From all of us here at Tridac please send your brother our “get well soon” wishes! Cheers

Gord McCallum @@gordmccallum Website Reply

Great point Bozic and I appreciate the courage it takes to write on this which is, unfortunately, still a controversial subject that raises a lot of emotion for people.

I think when people can present honest and rational arguments for their point of view, whatever it is, it takes our country in the right direction.

It’s a crime that someone in this country can’t spend their own hard-earned after-tax income the way they want to. The Supreme Court has also ruled that access to a waiting list is not the same thing as access to health care. Slowly – much too slowly – people are chipping away at the current system and hopes for reform are growing.

I think it’s quite obvious that the status quo in healthcare in Canada is insufficient, so thanks for sharing your thoughts on this and I’m glad to hear your brother is ok.

payday loan @Twitter ID Website Reply

I was suggested this web site by my cousin.
I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my difficulty. You’re
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Katharine Keyes @Twitter ID Website Reply

My husband had major back surgery last year after two weeks of excruciating pain and eventually bladder paralysis. That prompted surgery but not the previous 3 ER visits. Once he was in the hospital, he was in a room meant for two beds but had three. The patient beside him had a lung infection so the suction cup was hanging over my husbands head. Imagine that coming loose…yuck! The three bed policy was a political ploy to score votes in the provincial election a few years back (Alberta)
Prior to the surgery, we were just about on our way to a private facility to get faster our expense. Fortunately for us, we do have the resources but what about those who don’t. That’s why governments are so leary of the two tiered system. The bladder paralysis was the only thing that got us in surgery on the public dime.
That all said, I agree that the health professional work with what they have and for most, it’s less than ideal conditions. Crowded rooms, no storage, abusive patients and no money. It would definitely be easier to allow those who can afford it, to get in and get out so those less fortunate might wait less than months or years that they do now.
Our system does need to be better, more effective and efficient.

Gord McCallum @@gordmccallum Website Reply

I just realized that I called you “Bozic” in the last post. No idea how that happened – sorry Boris! :)

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