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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Medicare Today

Guess the country:

Earlier this month, an 87-year-old woman waited 19 hours in a corridor at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after being assessed.

Margot Djordjewitsch's upset family said up to 10 other patients were also "accommodated" in a corridor. They are seeking a response from their local MP.

Australian Medical Association state president Dr Andrew Lavender said waiting up to 19 hours was "not unusual" - but even he was surprised at the QEH's statistics.

The State Government wants 95 per cent of patients admitted or discharged within four hours.

This target - the subject of robust discussions with doctors - is set for 2013 and was an election commitment fulfilled in last week's Budget.

Not to worry. We're keeping our end up in the socialized health care sweepstakes:

They jokingly call the room in which patients bathe and shower on the fourth floor at Sudbury Regional Hospital "the spa," but Tyler Boyer wasn't laughing when it became his hospital room.

Boyer was transferred there Thursday from a medical ward after being admitted early Sunday morning for a respiratory problem.

Boyer's hospital bed was placed in the narrow room at the end of a hallway on the orthopedic-neurology floor, with the head of the bed almost touching the toilet.

He had two views — the wall on one side or a tiled shower stall, bathroom sink and counter, and bathtub about two feet from his bed.

Whenever someone tells me that in Canada we have "free health care," my standard retort is: "Yeap. And you get what you pay for." It's not true though. The single biggest expenditure in the typical Canadian's budget is not housing or food, its taxes. The single biggest item of government spending in Canada is health care. 

Tyler Boyer is 34. Let's say he's been paying income taxes for the last twelve years, and various consumption taxes since he was old enough to buy candy bars. Now imagine being a client of a company for a dozen plus years, loyally funding their bottom line, and when the time comes that you need their services, they almost literally stick your head in a toilet. Between the class-action lawyers, angry clients and regulators, the corporate carcass would be picked clean within weeks. Medicare, however, is approaching its golden anniversary.

When shipments of tainted meat were traced back to Maple Leaf Foods in 2008, the company's CEO was nearly lynched by the usual suspects. His mistake wasn't running a company that shipped bad product, but not having the sense to be CEO of a non-profit hospital. The Cult of Medicare continues to claim victims because it carries about it an altruistic halo. Generations of Canadians have been bombarded - in schools, in hospital waiting rooms, in university lectures, in ponderous editorials - that Medicare is a noble national achievement, rather than a Canadian disgrace. 

The alternative isn't American-style anything, it's a freer market. If we can feed, clothe and house ourselves without the whole thing being run by a minister of the crown, why doesn't the same work for health care? The laws of economics don't suspend themselves in your doctor's office, and then magically reappear when you reach the sidewalk. The poor don't starve because the Weston family controls Loblaws. The sick wouldn't die because patients had become empowered consumers, rather than numbers in a government ration queue. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 7, 2010 | Permalink


Amen brother. Good luck with that!

Ah, the Canadian health care delivery monopoly, where suffering is considered your patriotic duty! At least 70% of Canadians pay less into the "system" than what they receive in benefits (generally mediocre to acceptable care, particularly when you know nothing else). Those that get the lousy service, if they are old enough, besides the collective contempt for their miserable lives and cost imposition on the "system" are an inconvenience to the bureaucrats in budgeting.

A former BC Cabinet Minister, in a candid moment once referred to the Canadian health care system as the embodiment of the politics of resentment and hatred. I would add politically irreversible to her description.

As opposed to the "evil" US system(s), Canadians have discovered (copied) the secret to (relative)cost containment. Some selfish people have complained - Silence Comrade!

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-10-07 11:48:01 AM

The only reason that waiting lists are not even longer in Canada is that provincial and federal governments have literally opened the funding spigots when it comes to medicare. Since the economy has been doing reasonably well over the past few years, governments feel that they can afford it right now.

In most provinces, however, health care spending is approaching 50 percent of the budget. When the economy tightens up, be prepared to see mass layoffs and substantially worse care.

Posted by: Dennis | 2010-10-07 1:50:25 PM

Ontario should follow the lead of states like Texas, PDF and write legislation to establish a central bank. Instead of paying interest on the debt to private banks(0.10 cents per dollar)profits from a Bank of Ontario will be returned to the province.

Posted by: Jim | 2010-10-07 2:57:54 PM

Greatest problem with socialized medicine is that it creates massive distortions in the marketplace. What is the real cost of healthcare? No one knows. What is the real cost of one person's health to that person? Nothing because the state will pay for it. Thus, we have all these people engaged in all kinds of unhealthy behaviours and activities because there will not have to bear the financial costs of their treatments. To have a user pay system would, for one thing, force people to consider the financial impact of an unhealthy lifestyle. Moreover, socialized medicine assures that unhealthy people survive by prolonging their lives. People are clearly living longer than they should, and we can blame socialized medicine for that.

Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-10-07 3:30:40 PM

I believe we are already seeing large cracks in the Iron Wall of Canada's health care monopoly. Saskatchewan is starting to use private health care, Quebec (!) has private health insurance, and in Alberta D. Smith is in favor of allowing the use of private health care facilities. These cracks will be rent wide apart when the Great Gray Wave of old boomers forces the system to change.

Posted by: Cytotoxic | 2010-10-07 8:11:11 PM

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