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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Calling out the BS

I've heard about this commercial in the US featuring a Canadian who claimed she'd be dead if she hadn't gone to the US for healthcare, but haven't seen it until recently. Here it is.

Shona TV Spot - "Survived" - kewego
TV spot from Patients United Now highlighting Shona's Story.
Keywords: health care shona
Video from aforp

After watching this, I have only one response.




It is a lie, plain and simple. A complete misrepresentation of the Canadian medical system.

Actually, the first lie is from the Canadian woman, Shona. It turns out she didn't actually have brain cancer. She had a benign cyst, something she admitted to later. Her life wasn't in any danger.

As for waiting lists, people on it are priority marked based on urgency. Sometimes openings appear for one reason or another (like... oh, I don't know... someone taking themselves off the list because they went somewhere else for treatment?). When that happens, the most urgent cases on the waiting list that can make it in for treatment will be called. This is how my original greater than 6 months wait for surgery (the clinic - a private one, I might add - only booked up to 6 months in advance) got shortened twice and I ended up getting surgery in less than 2 months - and that includes the minimum 2 weeks needed to get any ibuprofen out of my system, which I'd been taking for the pain, but could cause excessive bleeding during the surgery. That's taking into account Christmas holidays. My case file was flagged urgent for a type of surgery that, for other women, would normally be considered cosmetic. The only reason there was a waiting list was that paying customers had priority over medicare patients.

When my husband was on the waiting list for his overnight sleep apnea test at a sleep research facility, he regularly called the contact number to ask if there were any openings. There was a last minute cancellation opening up a spot the last night the lab would be open before shutting down for 2 weeks of Christmas holidays. Because of the urgency of his case, he got that spot. Sleep apnea isn't usually as life threatening as my husband's was at the time, and I'm convinced that if we hadn't found out about it at the time, he probably wouldn't have survived to see the new year. We wouldn't have known to stop certain medications and take other measures that exacerbated the situation. He was even banned from taking cough medicine! No one else on that waiting list was in an actual life threatening situation like his.

Even now, as we've had various tests and procedures, our experiences have been good. The only real complaint I have had was with the respiratory specialist that kept wanting to blame things on my fat, even after test results showed otherwise. I've had a CT scan and a broncoscopy with minimal waiting time. For things like blood tests that don't require fasting or to be done at certain times of day, I don't even need to make an appointment. I just take the paperwork from my doctor and drop in at the lab. Now that our family doctor has moved offices, that will involve going from the 4th floor to the basement level of the same building. There's an Xray lab there, too. No appointment necessary. As full as the waiting rooms have been, I think 45 minutes is the most I've ever had to wait.

My husband recently had an MRI done on his knees. The dr. wrote him up for it and we had to wait for a call once his receptionist got an appointment for him. We were actually surprised to get a call back as quickly as we did, and for the appointment to be so soon. After all, we kept hearing about these long waiting lists everyone was complaining about!

The clinic was in mall we'd never been to before, and the waiting room was crowded. Rather than taking up 3 seats when we didn't have appointments ourselves, the girls and I decided to check out the mall. It turned out to be a medical mall. Aside from a grocery store, department store, pharmacy and a small food court, everything in the mall was medically related, with specialties ranging from food ailments to plastic surgery, and a few we'd never heard of before. It was like a hospital, without the hospital staff running around all over. Not much to look at, so the girls and I soon found a bench to sit on and I brought out my crochet, expecting to have a long wait before my husband called to say he was finished.

I barely got started when the call came. My husband was already done. He'd hoped to be able to see some images, but they've gone all high tech now, and the scans are sent out instantly. Gone are the days when we could go for Xrays and the techs could show us the images as they checked them before being sent out. It's all digital now.

Are there waiting lists? Sure. Are there problems? Yes. Are people being denied care because the government doesn't consider patients worthy? Absolutely not!! Does the government tell us what doctors we can or can't go to? No!! Does the government decree what treatment we can or can't get? No, though the system won't necessarily pay for all types of treatment available. This is where a public/private partnership comes in.

The Canadian health care system isn't one homogeneous thing. Each province and territory is responsible for their own health care system. Personally, I'd prefer it if coverage was the same across the country. I have an overnight sleep apnea test booked that I'm going to have to cancel because I can't afford to pay for it, even with my husband's private medical insurance. It's not covered where we live, even though the test is done in a hospital. I'd like it if more types of drugs were covered, etc. I would love it if dental procedures and eye exams were covered, too.

Universal health care is a misnomer. It can't cover everything, nor should it. The important thing about a government run health care system is that it covers the basics. If you break your leg, get shot, or just want an annual physical, it's covered. If you come down with a debilitating illness, you will be treated. If you're like me and find yourself needing to have a breast reduction for medical reasons, it will be covered. If it's for cosmetic reasons, pay for it yourself or have private insurance to cover it.

Unlike private insurance, you don't get dinged for actually using the system. It's paid for through our taxes and, in some provinces, premiums. You will never be denied treatment for lack of insurance. Your premiums will never go up because you smoke, have a BMI outside the "normal" range, or because you like to sky dive in your spare time.

I personally believe that a combination of public and private health care can work. We already have that in Canada, so a certain extent, but it could be improved. There's always room for change and improvement. I'm disgusted by the wasteful bureaucracy in the public system - something that applies to all areas of government and needs to be constantly guarded against.

Our system has flaws, but this commercial is completely off base with what those are, and completely misrepresents how it really is.

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