I was asked by Jane to write something about our Canadian Health Care. I’ve been thinking about that for a while, especially since we watched the documentary “Sicko” by Michael Moore (worth it if you haven’t seen it yet).
Until I started travelling to the States (in the mid-eighties) it never dawn on me that some people had to pay to see a doctor. I guess I took that for granted. I have to say it was somewhat of a foreign concept to me to think that, when sick in the States, not everyone can get medical treatment. This is so weird to me. All my life, whenever I felt sick we would go to the emergency or to a walk-in clinic. Medical care is a social service in Canada. Each province has its own basic rules and regulations, but every Canadian is covered. As long as I had my Medicare card, which is issued by our province, it was all-good.
The card would get “shlick-shlick” (how the doctors get paid by the government); I would wait and eventually would see a doctor and get treated.
Because I’ve been thinking about this, I’m realising that I, alone, would probably have ruined my parents if they’d have to pay for all the care I’ve received before I became an adult. I had my tonsils removed at age five, so a few visits before because of sore throat, a hospital stay of a few days, surgery and subsequent visits. Then I had appendicitis, at age twelve, which involved many visits to the emergency before they actually found out what was wrong, then surgery, etc. Then at seventeen, I broke both my wrists… We never paid for any of these, we presented my card, and that was that. I even had many dentist visits covered as well, until age 12.
Granted what we don’t pay in money, we often pay in time sitting in the waiting room of the ER. I remember squirming in desperation when my mother would tell me we had to go to the hospital; I hated going there because I knew we would sit and wait. Whenever we would see a doctor within an hour, we were so pleased. That didn’t happen too often, unfortunately. The waiting time in Québec is a known and expected thing when seeing a doctor. They created CLSC, which are little community centre where one can see any type of doctors (from psy to ob/gyn), nurses etc. They do blood tests and such and supposedly cut a lot of patients from the ER. I say “supposedly” because no matter where you go, you do wait. Waiting, I think was and always will be part of the medical experience, because after all, the name says it; “patient”, it’s not by shear luck it is called that.
I consider myself lucky. We are lucky to be Canadian, despite our cold winters; I think we have it good. Last year when my MIL was doing her chemo, each treatment she was getting was costing over $1,500./injection, and that’s not counting the pills and all the other things she had to take. She was hospitalised for almost nine months. Luckily everything was covered by the RAMQ (Régie Assurance Maladie du Québec). I can only imagine the cost of the surgeries both Hubby and myself have had like his hip replacement, my multiple knee surgeries, my hysterectomy to name a few… For all of these, we were lucky; between the times we started seeing a doctor for a problem, the diagnostic and the scheduling of the surgeries it only took a few months. Like everywhere else, we have great doctors and some quacks. Some really do care about the patient, and others just treat a number. Many people want to turn our medical social services into a public private partnership, which would mean that those who could afford it would see a doctor faster than those who couldn’t. Naturally, those will little income are strongly against it, and want to remain social.
I’ve heard horror stories about people not seeing doctors before months. Our system currently suffers because our doctors and nurses (schooled and trained here) go to the States for monetary reasons and for the opportunity to work with better equipment and environment. Our family doctor told us that he no longer takes new patients, and is often contacted when one of his patients dies. People are trying to get in anyway they can, by asking: “Now that Mrs. Soandso is gone, will you take me as a patient?” We are lucky enough to have a family doctor. Whenever we need to see him, we call him and get to see him within a week or two.
I believe, like in every other aspect of my life, that it is our own responsibility to be aware and pro-active when it comes to dealing with the medical system. Yes the hospitals do need more nurses and more doctors, but if each of us would stop running to the hospital for every little booboo we have, maybe we would waste less time in the waiting room. I have see many abusing the system, in different ways. It creates jams for the people who are really sick and in need of some attention. It’s not unusual to have to wait for more than three hours after triage. That is the real ugly part of our system. But the real beautiful part is the fact that no matter where or who you are, you will get treatment. That is a comforting thought. …At least, to me it is!