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Thursday, November 25, 2004

There is no word for "wait" in American healthcare

Toronto Sun today: "Windsor doctor Albert Schumacher believes it's his ethical and moral responsibility to tell patients they can cross the border for faster tests. The president of the Canadian Medical Association said the country's doctors have no choice when waiting times get unhealthy for their patients."

Mark Steyn in the November 22 Western Standard: "What's the defining characteristic of a government health service? It's one word, a word that, in its medical context, doesn't exist south of the border -- 'waiting,' as in 'waiting list,' 'waiting times,' waiting, waiting, waiting."

Posted by Paul Tuns on November 25, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Don't forget: "waiting for Canadian doctors to stumble upon the correct diagnosis."

Someone I know in Windsor, Ont. was wasting away - dying for an unknown reason. After many visits to specialists in Windsor and London and making zero progress, she finally went to a hospital in Detroit. Within one hour the American doctors used a new and highly experimental procedure called an "X-Ray" (how long have they had these wonderful machines???) and instantly diagnosed the problem. Let's just say, there was a blockage in the GI tract that was so obvious, even a unionized dishwasher in a Canadian hospital could have spotted it. Surgery was performed immediately, and she was fully cured.

Once you recognize socialism for what it is - the tyranny of elites - the cure for the health care sytem is just as obvious.

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2004-11-26 10:35:15 AM

There is a word for wait. It's wait.

You'll have to _wait_ until next paycheck then maybe we can see a doctor about that. You'll have to _wait_ 'til your father get's a job with health coverage. In fact, sometimes the _wait_ is forever because you just can't afford to be sick - you just live with it. You'll have to _wait_ until the next bus trip to the nice pharmacy in Niagra Falls.

If you can afford it, America has the best healthcare in the world - hands down. If you can't afford it, it's no better than Cuba's.

It shouldn't be a surpirse that waiting times are shorter for some things in the US. US healthcare spending is much more (double?) per capita than in Canada and it is spent on only a portion of the population.

By any measure, Canada's healthcare system is among the best in the world. Health outcomes are virtually identical between Canada and the US.

To wave your hands in the air and claim that the Canadian system is broken - or even inferior - based on the observation that faster service can be purchased elsewhere seems a little weak to me.

And lastly, why is it a bad thing that I can buy healthcare elsewhere? Are you arguing that the Canadian system should spend more money to provide more services?

Posted by: KevinG | 2004-11-26 11:34:09 AM

You're quite wrong, KevinG. In the same hospital where my friend was treated, *everyone* gets treated, regardless of ability to pay. Those who can do so, pay. Those who can't, don't. I know this because my friend's mother worked at that hospital. They paid through insurance. The families from the Detroit ghetto usually pay with nothing but a lot of lip and attitude. But they still get treated.

And it isn't just Michigan. A friend of a friend - a doctor from Canada - was visiting Florida. While alone on the beach, with no ID, he collapsed from a heart attack. He woke up in a hospital, after lifesaving treatment had been performed. The heart specialist who treated him came in and talked to him for 3 (three) hours about the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. All of this happened before anyone approached him and asked about insurance plans, credit cards, etc. And that's not all. He said that in the next bed, there was another patient with the same condition - but the other guy was a rubbie, a real bum who clearly would never be able to make good on his hospital bills. But the same cardiologist came in, and spent 3 hours with that guy too.

There are problems with health care in the USA but failure to treat people is not one of them.

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2004-11-26 12:13:56 PM


Actually I'm not wrong. While it is true that you can receive emergency care at a hospital even if you cannot pay, emergency care is not the same as healthcare.

You cannot, for example, go to the emergency room when your 5 year old has strep, or asthma, or your mother has kidney problems.

I lived in the northern suburbs of Chicago and in Denver for many years. In Chicago kids were bused in from other neighborhoods. I knew many of their parents well and a lack of treatment is real to them.

There is also a very large difference between the types of care available depending on your type of health coverage (eg HMO or PPO). The more you make, the more services are available.

In my experience the US healthcare system provided me and my neighbours brilliant service. I also saw people who would have been much better off with 'socialised medicine'.

There are problems with health care in the USA and a failure to treat people is one of them.

Posted by: KevinG | 2004-11-26 12:34:48 PM

Having been through the rapid deterioration and death of my mother last month, at Regina General Hospital (in "intensive care", no less) where it took 10 days to actually find the lung specialist to get the diagnosis and prognosis (and that, only after a query to the charge nurse as to what what going on), after witnessing the abysmal quality of care she recieved when it was determined "nothing could be done"...

I can wrap up the difference between the Canadian health system and that in the US in a single, simple observation.

In the US system, they have a vested interest in keeping you alive - dead patients don't produce profit. In Canada, the bottom line is better served if you die.

It is a canard to say our system is "not for profit". EVERYONE profits. The doctor, nurses, attendants, beaurocrats - all are guaranteed a "profit". And that's the fundamental problem - no consequences for inferior job performance.

If governments want to smooth out waiting lists, get bovine nurses off their fat asses and back into the business of patient care - they should institute a check-off system - to hold back a portion of top tier worker's wages on every case, until the patient or patient's family signs off that they are satisfied with the treatment they recieved.

For good measure, include beaurcrats in the holdback process as well.

Posted by: Kate | 2004-11-26 4:15:20 PM

My condolences on your mother's passing.

Posted by: KevinG | 2004-11-26 5:19:39 PM

Folks if you don't subcribe to the Western Standard look on line at Mark Steyns website and see if you can find his take on the Canadian Health Care system. Its worth a read. In my opinion we should have private and public. If there was some competition out there maybe those bovine nurses Kate is talking about may clean up their act. Secondly why are we spending thousands of dollars in the US. Wouldnt that money be better spent in our country??

Posted by: MikeP | 2004-11-26 8:07:24 PM

"You cannot, for example, go to the emergency room when your 5 year old has strep, or asthma, or your mother has kidney problems."

I don't know about "kidney problems", but up my way, people bring their kids to the emergency with strep and asthma all the time. I think that asthma is one of the biggest reasons for emergency room visits (along with migraines).

I guess you want to talk about the expense of paying for serious but less-dangerous health conditions - but I don't think this is a good reason to introduce Canadian-style socialized medicine. The poorest people in the USA get free government-provided medicare to cover the kinds of things that you name. The next higher-up class of people, who do not qualify for medicare, (the so-called "uninsured" for whom socialists profess so much anguish) and who can't afford insurance, do have the income to pay for these kinds of illnesses. Visits to the GP, antibiotics and asthma inhalers are not free, but they are not going to break the bank either.

There is also a large number of people in the USA who do not qualify for medicare, and who could buy insurance if they wish. But they choose not to, for whatever reason. If they become seriously ill, they have to dip into savings, mortgage their house, or borrow from relatives. If they're truly broke and can't work, they can always apply for medicare. Unfortunately, the advocates of socialized medicine always lump these people in with the other class of non-insured, in order to exaggerate their case.

The problem with socialized medicine is the same as with every other manifestation of socialism: the actual needs of individuals are always lost under some elite's vision of collective good. But the members of an elite are really just individuals seeking to benefit themselves, and they quickly learn that the levers of power can be abused with no consequences whatsoever - as long as they can preserve the illusion that "society" is benefitting from what they do.

Therefore I would like to abolish all forms of socialist medicine at the national and state/province level, and replace it with the free market. A free country will be a prosperous country, and in a prosperous country, private charity will be able to fill the needs of the very small numbers of the truly poor.

I don't favor a mix of private and public health care, because public welfare programs with their inefficiency, bloat and corruption, will inevitably suck every last available dollar out the public, until hardly any money is left to spend on private "upgrades".

As proof, I offer you exhibit 'A' - Dalton McGuinty. Most of the money from his big new "health" tax will be quickly squandered on building up more bureaucracy in Toronto and in the regional health districts, and on buying out private clinics so that they can be turned into unionized featherbeds. The rest will be thrown away on dozens or maybe hundreds of ridiculous "health" initiatives such as building sewers, prosecuting people for smoking in bars, harrasing unhelmeted bicycle riders, and so on. The "success" of the health tax will probably be used by federal politicians to justify cutting Ontario's health transfer payments to an even lower level, or else to raise the payments to other provinces, so that they can "catch up" to Ontario. The health tax will have to keep going up and up, yet the result will be longer and longer waiting lists, and angrier and angrier doctors and nurses.

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2004-11-26 8:55:03 PM

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