Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Health Care

I was reading the other day about Cuba's much-vaunted health care system, which is great unless you need medication and then its more problematic as medications generally are not available. So you get to see a doctor but they just can't treat you.

I was reflecting on this following my latest exposure to Canada's health system. My wife had the mis-fortune to beak her leg, quite badly and in three places. Our local hospital responded well in the provision of emergency treatment but needed to refer her to London because of the severity of the break. O.K. so far so good. Especially as London is one of Canada's leading medical centres. Except they can see her the next day but tell us to go into their emergency the day after. We get there, only to find out no one knows about it, X-rays have not been sent through, there is no-one from Orthopaedics answering their pager and the triage nurse is refusing to admit the patient with the triple break. Five hours later we go home, no available operating room that day, and no beds to admit her. Still in lots of pain but this is Canada, so drugs for pain are available except our insurance company won't cover the cost on the second prescription because its within 72 hours of the previous one and they view that as a"duplicate". (This is how they made over $700 million last year in profits I begin to realise: take in premiums and then fight tooth and nail against honouring programs).

Go back next day, there is now a scheduled operating time but the leg is now too swollen to operate and we go home again -- still no available beds. Come back in two days, through the out-patient clinic and "hopefully" there will be an operating room available and "hopefully" an available bed.

And people wonder why the Canadian public are in favour of a two-tier health system. My wife's problem apparently is that she doesn't play professional sport or she would have has her leg operated on and stabilized a week ahead of when she will as taxpayer. She would also have had access to professional nursing, not a husband angry at the inability of the health case system to actually open and staff the beds it has in its newly renovated hospital. Why do we insist on building institutions and not providing the staff to actually operate them?

With one exception, all the medical staff we have dealt with over the past week were wonderful and did a good job. However, all were suffering from a surfeit of poor morale: good people, trying to do their best, frustrated by poor planning and allocation of resources.

Welcome to Canadian health care: lots of toys, not so many beds or nurses. One system for all and no two-tier system (except for athletes, politicians and the other animals not in the barn yard with the rest of us).