Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

If All You Want for Christmas Is an Endoscopy


The Canadian government talks a good talk when it comes to preventative health care but let’s face it, in order to be preventative it has to be timely. My husband Cameron lost his father to esophageal cancer last year. With a family history of cancer and symptoms of heartburn he decides to see his doctor about having an endoscopy.

In January 2010 he visits his doctor and is referred to a specialist. He waits three months for the appointment where the specialist tells him that he will now be placed on a waiting list for an endoscopy. Cameron asks about getting one done privately but is told the option is not available in Saskatchewan. However, if he is willing to travel outside of the city his wait could be reduced. Apparently, the specialist travels to Rosetown, Saskatchewan, a couple of days each month where he has access to equipment for the procedure. Cameron agrees to travel and is placed on the waiting list for an endoscopy.

A couple of months later he calls the Rosetown & District Health Centre to see where he is on their list. A return call indicates that his appointment may be scheduled for some time in December which is more than five months away. In November he calls again and is told that the waiting list is now “horrendously long” and that his appointment may not be until January 2011. Gee, it’s pretty bad when all you want for Christmas is an endoscopy.

I contact a private clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia, to inquire about purchasing this health care service. I ask their patient care coordinator if she is aware of any private clinics closer to Saskatchewan. She tells me that many Saskatchewan patients are coming to their clinic. I soon understand why they are heading out west. The clinic offers a package that includes a consultation with a Gastroenterologist, endoscopy, biopsy (if required), and a copy of the report and lab results. Unlike the public health care system, they treat you like a real customer and provide information on costs. The price for an endoscopy package at the private clinic is close to $2,000. I make some quick calculations – the price to see a movie at the theatre is about $50 which includes babysitter payment, admission, and snacks. A dinner out can cost around $100 and includes a drink, main course, and dessert. The grocery bills in any given month add up to at least $500 and the annual license plate registration for my car costs more than $1,000. The peace of mind that comes from accessing a procedure that can help detect cancer in stages early enough for treatment is well worth its $2,000 price tag and, like most other purchases, a credit card can be used to pay for it. If only this option were available in Saskatchewan we could save a great deal of time and money on airfare and accommodations.  

I’d prefer to pay directly for health care services instead of throwing my federal and provincial tax dollars into the financial black hole of Medicare where politicians and health care bureaucrats make decisions regarding my access to health care and the type and quality of care I’ll receive.

A day after making the appointment at a private clinic Cameron receives word from the centre in Rosetown that his endoscopy is now booked for the third of December. He’s been bumped up the list (read my previous post on how to be a queue jumper). The appointment is just two weeks away and a one hour drive is much easier than a trek to another province. He chooses to have the procedure done closer to home. It’s his health and his choice so I agree to cancel the appointment in Vancouver.

On the morning of December 3, we drive to the Rosetown & District Health Centre. After checking in with the front desk we are directed to the waiting room. They should have said hallway. A number of chairs line the walls near the end of a long hallway. Patients in hospital gowns fill the seats along with their accompanying family members. They inform us that the doctor is running a couple of hours behind schedule. I can’t help but notice a large crack running across the hallway floor and find it to be a fitting metaphor for our health care system.

If all you want for Christmas is an endoscopy, then perhaps you should consider buying one. It may just turn out to be the gift of a lifetime.


8 Responses to “If All You Want for Christmas Is an Endoscopy”
  1. Charles Cruden says:

    Why is our Canadian Health System all about dollars.
    I had an ERCP done by a Gastroenterologist five years ago. I went to this same doctor a few years later for a colonoscopy and in conversation he told me that his hospital time had been reduced so that there was more time for heart patients.
    When will levels of bureaucracy be reduced so that more dollars are available for necessary procedures that if done, would probably reduce our overall healthcare costs?

  2. RN says:

    My father waited over five months for liver cancer surgery despite being coded as a “P1″. He was never referred to the Cancer Agency while he waited and when he inquired with the surgeon’s receptionist about the wait he was informed that if he wanted surgery sooner HE could make arrangements to have it performed in Alberta! Following surgery my father experienced a multitude of complications, two falls and a case of VRE. He never left the hospital and passed three weeks post-op.

    Access to safe, timely care – Priceless!

    • Kartik says:

      I’m deeply sorry to hear about your predicament… your father’s scenario is repeated all too often across Canada. A lot of reform has to happen!

  3. Kartik says:

    our system is a joke. I mean I know Jack Layton died – but when he praised the Canadian system while talking to Americans but was not above bad mouthing Harper and talking about how so many Canadians don’t have access to a doctor or even a waiting list. Typical politician…..

  4. Shauna says:

    IN the last perhaps 3 years, I know of a man who has had 13 endoscopies. He has a stent and is supposed to eat a soft diet to keep the stent from blocking. He doesn’t eat the soft diet. He ends up blocking the stent and going into emergency to have an endoscopy to clear it… of whatever…green pepper…apple….The point is that people who don’t DO what they are supposed to DO To maintain their health, end up hogging all the space in the health care system when they expect someone else to take care of them. In this case, he should have been allotted one blockage removal. No soft diet, no further endoscopies. Period. At some point we are going to have to hold people accountable. I wonder if anyone died because of this man’s laziness and selfishness….while they waiter for THEIR endoscopy.

  5. RN says:

    Gosh I wish you had a like/dislike thumbs up/thumbs down button for comments on your site.

  6. Tony says:

    Do you remember the name of the private clinic in BC?

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