About Me

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Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Canada's Health Care Not That Great

I just read online about a study, called Euro-Canada Health Care Index, that looked at health care in Canada from the ordinary person's perspective and compared it with 29 European countries.

Out of 30 countries, Canada came in at 23rd. When adjusted for "bang for your buck," even with Canada's very high level of spending it ranks last. This is shocking news!

The study examined several health-care quality indicators including wait times, patient rights and information, primary care and access to one's own medical records. The report states that Canadians rely upon a "sclerotic, inefficient and remarkably stingy" system when it comes to providing excellent and timely care to patients. And when it comes to patients rights and information, Canada tied with Poland, ahead of only Latvia.

Wait times is the weakest link in the Canadian health care system. As one who is in the queue, I had to wait to see my family doctor (but not too long), then wait for the CT scan, then wait for the specialist (which was originally going to be three months, but I saw him within six weeks of contact), then wait for an MRI (but again I got a cancellation), again wait to see the surgeon for the results of the MRI, and finally am currently waiting for a date for surgery. So far it's been seven months.

On the other hand, the study says that with respect to clinical outcomes, Canada compares well with the best performing health care systems. And within Canada, British Columbia is second only to Ontario.

So even though I'm waiting, I know that I'll be in good hands with quality care when I arrive at the hospital for my operation. However, maybe I should consider moving to Austria, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland or Germany.


Shrinky said...

It's a worrisome enough time when you are due for surgery, without the added strain of an uncertain wait as to when you'll be called for it. I do hope it won't be too long for you now.

I note you wisely didn't add Britain to your choice of Country to opt to go to for a better service, our NHS system is straining at the seams. Sigh..

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

I doubt if Britain came in the top 30!! Shocking over here, deplorably...disgusting treatment in lots of areas.

leslie said...

Hi Shrinky & Anne, no England was not even mentioned, but it might have been in the middle. Somehow, I doubt it, though.

Anonymous said...

I watched an interesting documentary (on Nova, I think) about how many Canadians can't find a family physician anymore. The perception is that there aren't enough doctors, and many of them leave Canada to work in other countries. In reality, there as many family doctors per capita as there were 50 years ago. The difference is that modern doctors refuse to be "married to their jobs". They won't work 80-100 hours per week, as doctors used to do. Now they want a work-life balance, and only work 40 - 60 hours per week. Therefore they can't take as many patients into their practices. Fair enough for the doctors, I think. However, how can we encourage more young Canadians to become doctors and stay in Canada, so we have more per capita, they can work fewer hours, and yet there are enough doctors to go around for all of us...


leslie said...

I think it's Jack Layton who has suggested in his campaign that all those students in med school right now will have their student loans excused if they work as a general practitioner (family doctor) for a minimum of 10 years. That might be a solution to encourage young people to go into medecine, considering the expense of becoming a doctor.

CrazyCath said...

Me too Leslie - your post could be about the NHS!

(Which technically is not "free" because taxes and national insurance contributions (both compulsory)pay for it.)
Ah - don't get me started. There's a lot right with the NHS, but there's a lot wrong with it too.

Jo said...

Gosh, Leslie, where did you get your study? I work in health care, and the folks in our clinic schedule diagnostic tests like CT scans, bronchoscopies, MRIs, fine needle biopsies, various lab tests, etc., all the time, and the waits are not long at all. In fact, we can often get people in for a bronchoscopy the very next day after they have come to our clinic, and a fine needle biopsy can be done within just a few minutes.

As far as patient rights, the Provincial Health Services Association Risk Management Department has drawn up a very long list of patient rights, and we have them posted in all our clinics. There are 12 points altogether.

I am a bit suspicious of the Euro-Canada Health Care Index. People come to Canada from other countries because they know they can get off the plane, drive directly to a hospital and get first class care.

I guess any numbers can be skewed, but I know from first hand experience that Canada comes in way before 23rd.

jmb said...

Well I worked in the health care industry too for the last 18 years of my career in pharmacy and while there was waste in the system, as there is in any system I don't think we do too badly in this area.

It would all depend on what was chosen for the criteria for the study what country did best in any area.
Yes there are waiting times for some procedures but you just can't train more doctors or build more hospitals no matter how much money you throw at the system. Doctors don't just go to university, they spend all the last years of their training in hospitals under supervising personnel. All that has to be put in place and takes time. Then you often find they move to the States to practise for various reasons so we are not necessarily training them for our own population after all.

The USA which claims it has the best health care in the world is riddled with problems too, they have a great shortage of primary care physicians and what's more their income is diminishing as the powerful insurance companies control what they will pay or not pay. Plus the 47 million people who have no insurance there, more people than live in all of Canada.

I hope you do not have to wait too much longer Leslie and that all goes well for your surgery.

Smalltown RN said...

Leslie, I heard about this report just the other day. Like any study numbers as Josie referenced can be skewd, it's all in how you want to look at them.

There are lots of issues at hand here, but the bottom line as the study outlines is that Canada does provide excellent healthcare. It's the semantics that need to be looked at.

The countries that you mention Netherlands, Switzerland and the likes have a very high tax bracket. A lot of their tax dollars do go to "Social programs" in those programs come health care, parental leave, adoption leave...childcare subsidies etc. Non of these services can be provided without paying a price. We as a society must decide where we want our tax dollars to be spent.

Do we put dollars into education and post secondary education to help subsides the exhorbitant tutions students have to pay to become nurses or doctors and other healthcare practisioners? Do we put it towards Family services such as childcare subsides, immunization programs, pharmacare etc....do we put our dollars into the military, or energy conservation initiatives, and the list goes on and on...but at the end of the day..the dollar can only go so far...and what can then population afford? So, the questions is still there where do we spend it...what do we value?

As far as health care goes, yes there are wait lists here in Canada....but I can tell you...if something is truly Emergent the person is seen and their health care issue dealth with in a timely manner.

I don't know if you are aware of the Province's initiative to decrease the wait lists for orthopedic surgeries. All surgeries are rated and put into the system as such....believe me Leslie there are many nurses and doctors staying into the whee hours of the morning performing emergency surgeries, so that 1) the patient does not suffer and 2) to help minimize the wait lists.

Someone made a comment about the lack of doctors per capita...well that is true and that is for a variety of reasons...some of which they referenced but others have to do with the rising cost of tuitions and lack of facilities to house the medical students, qualified professors and so on. In small towns, such as the one I live some doctors get discouraged because of the lack of access of diagnostic facilities and services...the doctors often find their hands tied by the system for a variety of reasons and opt to shut down their private practise or to limit their practise. There is a lot of politics involved in healthcare....doctors and the likes vying for control over certain sectors of health care...i.e. cardiology, peadiatrics, cancer care, neurology to name a few. Have you not noticed that VGH for example is the center for Neurology for BC, or St. Paul's the center for cardiology, and well BC Children's for peadiatric care, and BC women's for women health care....yes you can get these services outside of those centres...but the top people in those fields tend to be out of those centers...and well you get the idea.

Let us not forget that a lot of our health care woes started when the Federal government cut back transfer payments for medical services and put the responsibility on the provinces...some provinces have had difficulties making ends meet...and hence one of the reasons for the wait lists....

I could go on and on about this....but I hope you have seen that there are a multitude of reasons why there are wait lists....I haven't even spoken about the Provincial agenda of trying to privatize the health care system....don't get me going on that one....

As you know Leslie health care is near and dear to my heart....and even with all of it's warts I would far rather live in a system that still believes in providing "health care for all"

nancygrayce said...

I'm sorry for the wait since you're in pain! I hope you get your surgery date soon so you can start "getting over" the surgery! Health insurance is a pain world wide.

leslie said...

Thanks everyone for all your great comments. I, too, still believe we live in a country that has wonderful health care and I don't mind waiting my turn when it means someone worse off gets help. And I personally was amazed when I got in to see my surgeon and got my MRI in such a quick and timely fashion. I had expected to have to wait much much longer. I just hope I don't have to wait too much longer for my own surgery.

Smalltown RN said...

Leslie....most importantly, I too hope you get your surgery soon in order for you to get back to life and as usual and so you can enjoy those wonderful walks you like to take....hugs my friend...

Deslilas said...

Interesting post about your health system.
Thanks for your visit.

heiresschild said...

U.S. healthcare really sucks, well in some parts anyway!

i hope your surgery date comes thru soon, and i wish you a speedy recovery and good health for the future Leslie.

Ruth D~ said...

When there is a "system" and money and people are involved . . . it's never perfect. I just hope things work out for you.

peppylady said...

I hear about your waiting for medical care in Canada.
But as American I and lot of us worry about the cost of medical.
There some employer that offers medical insurance for there employees. Some of them pays 100% of the cost and others hardly pays anything.
I done a little research on buying private medical insurance it would cost us little over 30% of our income for 3 people.

But I heard that you Canadian lives 5 years more then the average American.