Monday, October 24, 2011

A snapshot from my Ontario healthcare family album

For the past month I've been watching and negotiating my way through the Ontario healthcare system on behalf of my elderly mother. Fortunately the initial problem was not that critical, but when one is injured in a fall, at 92 years of age, even little problems get magnified.

For all of its faults, and there are so many, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan or OHIP system seems to function, but at such a poor level of service and timeliness, that no one would tolerate it if it were in any other service area. In healthcare, most Ontarians choose to ignore or excuse the long worrying waits, or the pain endured before treatment is available because somehow, they view the system as part of their definition of what it means to be Canadian.

When the paramedics brought my mother to the local emergency department, she was "triaged" rather than "served" even though the emergency room was not busy by any stretch, I was there. Most of the "treatment" she underwent was done by the paramedics en route. When she arrived at the hospital she was viewed as an elderly patient who may or may not survive, and she was treated as a costly liability rather than an opportunity to make profit. What other service industry do Canadians interact with, that treats you like that? Imagine a dentist being so cavalier with someone's pain, how long would they be in business? Of course in dentistry, people have choices. This was a major regional hospital, yet my mother was not even given pain medication for over 3 hours when the doctor on-call finally saw her.

You would think that the supposedly compassionate physicians of Ontario (or anywhere in Canada for that matter) would collectively rise up and challenge the government health care model, but you would be wrong. 

In the editorial introduction to a recent FP Magazine, the editor Terence Corcoran, writes that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has "essentially abandoned their customers," and "Canadian doctors, the state-nationalized victims of health-care delivery, are also its official defenders." This is cronyism of the worst kind, and all Canadian doctors should be ashamed.

I think Mr. Corcoran's editorial was not widely read or discussed, because I've barely heard a peep out of the rest of the media, but it is worthy of your time to read it. 

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