Losing Patients with the Canadian Health Care System
Perhaps you are a relatively healthy person and therefore feel little need to concern yourself with the plight of patients and doctors featured in news headlines across the country. Like a majority of Canadians you tend to believe that when you have a serious injury or illness that our health care system will provide the best medical care to ensure the best possible outcomes and quality of life. For you have listened to our politicians and complied with your tax obligations to pay for Medicare, a social program touted as part of our national identity.
Aside from the troubles of finding a family doctor or waiting weeks for an appointment with them, your minor ailments are usually addressed. Of course the wait is much longer if you require certain tests, a medical specialist or surgery. Waiting lists are a cornerstone of our government-run health care system. Politicians often help to normalize the existence of these health care queues by leading people to believe that their waiting is contributing to some social good.
On July 1, 2010, Ann Reynar’s waiting came to an end. She passed away at the age of 66 from colon cancer. After receiving a diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer in early May, the Alberta resident was told to expect a call for an appointment from the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. Unbeknownst to patients on the Institute’s waiting list, their names were being prioritized into two categories. The first category contained names of patients whose treatment offered a chance for survival and the second contained names of patients whose treatment may only prolong their life. Ann Reynar’s name was placed in the second category along with a number of other patients. By the time the call for an appointment came six weeks later, she was too ill for treatment.
At first a shortage of oncologists was to blame but then a letter written by Dr. Heather-Jane Au, an oncologist and former employee of the Cross Cancer Institute, appeared in the local newspaper and brought to light issues with working conditions and government funding.
An increasing number of patients and doctors are using their voices to inform others about the realities of Canadian Medicare. It is a health care system built on good intentions which, in reality, have remained mostly that. Yet we continue to trust in our politicians whose actions bring consequences that fall far beyond the scope of their political careers. And we continue to provide financial rewards indicative of success to our health care bureaucrats while patients and providers are left to deal with the failings of Medicare.
There is a need for you to be concerned about the Canadian health care system. More importantly, there is a need to be prepared for the moment you are placed on a waiting list for medical care; a moment when you must ask yourself – What am I waiting for?