The high price we pay for “free” health care!

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Sabrina Almeida

Everything has a price… and our publicly-funded (often mistaken for free) health care system is exacting heavy dues from its users. While news reports and the NDP constantly draw our attention to record-high wait times, it typically remains a statistic till you find yourself in a horrendously long queue for critical diagnostic tests, specialist appointments and, even worse, emergency care.

A friend recently shared her agonizing experience at both Mississauga hospitals. She gave Credit Valley the thumbs down after she endured almost 8 hours of excruciating pain in her upper abdomen before being seen by a doctor. A few days later when she was forced to seek emergency care again, naturally she chose to go to Trillium (which is further away) instead. She was thankful for the slightly quicker response. Let me be clear that this was “better” in comparison her earlier experience at Credit Valley.

Could Credit Valley have been overwhelmed by the numbers in its emergency department that day? Sure! But waiting for 8 hours to be seen by a physician in an urgent care department is inhumane. She said that even the nurses couldn’t bear to see her suffering but were not able to help.

It is obvious that Mississauga’s two hospitals are struggling to keep up with its ever-growing population.

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Her distress continued as she waited more than a week for an endoscopy appointment which is critical to her diagnosis. Her worried mother told her that she should have flown to Mumbai where she would have received immediate attention. That city’s population is estimated to be around 22 million which is more than half of Canada’s, yet you can receive immediate medical attention. Yes, the  services are not “free” but neither is ours. According to a 2017 National Post report, the average Canadian family, consisting of two adults and two children, earning about $127,000 pays around $12,000 a year for public health care.

Even more ironical is when patients are able to do diagnostic tests but will be seen by specialists only three or four months later. Another friend who works at the diagnostic imaging center at a Brampton hospital often shares stories of individuals who come back and redo these tests as their condition has changed (rarely for the better) by the time they visit the specialist. Then the same scene plays out all over again.

This is also the reason many are willing to endure the endless wait in emergency care—if you are lucky the diagnostic tests can be done while you are there.

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My “wait time” experience this week took on a whole different dimension. I waited with my son for three hours in an ophthalmologist’s office before he was taken in for his appointment. Other patients had a similar waiting period. In the absence of an emergency, when a specialist may be called upon to do perform a critical procedure, overbooking had to be the reason for senseless wait. After all the specialist began his day at 7:30 am, devoted an average of 10 minutes to each patient and we were scheduled to see him at 2:50 p.m.

At the time of scheduling the appointment we were told that we should expect to be there for one to two hours. Why? Because of backlog!

My son arrived around 2:30 p.m. on the said day and was informed about an hour’s delay. So how did that grow to three hours???

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The procedure he needs to undergo may not take place for another three to four months. With him having to go back to university in Ottawa in September this could mean he has to wait for his Christmas holidays to get it done. In the meanwhile, his condition could worsen. But that’s a consequence of it being “free”, the specialist all but told us.

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Do we need more health care professionals? That should be music to the years of immigrant physicians, many of whom give up because they must spend hundreds of dollars to requalify. What a waste!

Will more hospitals help? That’s a no brainer!!!

Should privatized health care be an option? It’s just a matter of time!

With rising costs and a growing population (by 2020 the yearly total of new immigrants will hit 340,000), the current system will be hard to sustain in a few years. A study by Fraser Institute researchers, outlined in the report mentioned above, suggests health care cost have grown 173 per cent over the last 20 years when compared to things like food (54.6 per cent) and shelter (93.4 per cent). So, we will pay more one way or another.

Paying for medical services might also curb misuse by individuals seeking unnecessary second opinions and diagnostic testing which contributes to the lengthy wait times. -CINEWS

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