Thursday, January 06, 2011

Canadian Health Care: Yet More Failure

Given that socialized medicine in Canada was the model that proponents of ObamaCare looked to -- although happily they had to make some large compromises -- news from north of the border is relevant.

From The Star:
It’s no surprise to Thelma Lee that emergency room wait times are not meeting provincial targets.

Lee said her 41-year-old daughter, Marlene Stephens, died Saturday after waiting nearly 90 minutes at the William Osler Health Centre’s Etobicoke campus emergency room with breathing problems.

Lee feels her daughter was not seen fast enough by medical staff.

“They didn’t touch her,” said the grieving Lee. “She was crying out, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’. . . Nobody attended to my daughter.”

On Monday, Auditor General Jim McCarter released his annual report which found that despite putting an extra $200 million into shortening emergency room wait times over the last two years, “significant province-wide progress has not yet been made.”

“Complaints about overcrowding and delays in hospital emergency rooms have persisted for years,” McCarter told a news conference on Monday.

Emergency room waits for people with serious conditions sometimes reached 12 hours or more, the report said. That is far greater than the province’s 8-hour wait time target, the report found.

And for emergency patients who need a hospital bed, they waited on average for about 10 hours but some waited 26 hours or more, according to the 2010 Annual Report.

“Our audit found that wait times for patients with less serious ailments have been reduced somewhat,” McCarter said. “However, there has been only minimal progress in reducing wait times for patients with more serious conditions.”

Health Minister Deb Matthews defended the province’s ER wait times strategy, saying Ontario is the first province to set targets and measure waits.

“When we started, about 81 per cent of people who went to emergency departments were seen within the target,” she said. “Now we are at 85 per cent . . . a lot of hard work goes into getting those wait times down.”

McCarter’s report shows the real problem with ER waits doesn’t necessarily start in the emergency department.

A big part of the problem is the lack of in-patient beds, which forces admitted patients to be housed in the emergency departments, the report said.

The lack of in-patient beds is influenced by two things, McCarter found. Beds are being blocked by patients who no longer require hospital care but who are waiting for a long-term care bed and by “less-than optimal practices” by hospitals in managing patient flow to free up space.

“There is no question; the ER is the canary in the coal mine. When something isn’t being properly being managed anywhere in the health system, the problems then show up in the emergency department,” Matthews said, adding that is why the Liberals are expanding homecare initiatives.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said the auditor has been saying for some time that an investment in long-term care beds can help the backlog.

“It makes me sad when I hear about families who have to wait 23 hours with their sons or daughters in an ER room,” Hudak said.

“It is absolutely outrageous when you see the money is there but it has been abused and wasted in scandals . . ..”

Hudak said getting rid of Local Health Integration Networks — 14 bodies across Ontario that direct community-based health care planning — would save the system $250 million. That money could go back into hospital care, he said.

New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath said Ontario families are forced to play a waiting game for services and even life-saving programs.

“Families are waiting longer in emergency rooms . . . and to get their loved ones into long-term care or see them provided with home-care support,” she told reporters.

Lee called 911 early Saturday morning after her daughter collapsed with breathing problems when she came down the stairs.

Paramedics arrived quickly, but Lee said her daughter waited for about 90 minutes in the emergency room before being treated.

“This should not be happening in Canada,” Lee told the Star on Monday.

Stephens, an early childhood educator and mother of two sons, did not have any pre-existing breathing problems, said Lee.

Susan deRyk, chief communications officer for William Osler Health System, said the hospital cannot comment on any individual patient case due to patient privacy. “Our sympathies go out to the family,” she said.
Of course, horror stories about emergency rooms in the U.S. are not unknown. But this case is consistent with systematic data collected by the Auditor General.

It is in the nature of systems of socialized medicine to starve the providers. Given the choice of raising taxes, or imposing explicit draconian rationing, the politicians simply demand that the system produce better outcomes with the same resources -- or equal outcomes with fewer resources. But quickly that catches up with patients.

ObamaCare does not make it certain that this will happen in the U.S. But the vast increase in the power of the Federal government over health care now makes that a very real danger.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous The Patient Factor said...

Yes, please listen and learn from those living north of the border. Especially the patients brave enough to point out that beneath the robe of Canadian Medicare, the emperor has no clothes!

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have Canadian relatives, and although they have some negatives to say about their system (what system is perfect?), it's pretty much a consensus that they'd rather have a system that covers everybody, rather than what we have here. Remember the debate there is: How do we reduce waiting times and improve our system that covers everyone? While our debate is: How do we expand coverage?....Clearly, we're behind. But you wouldn't agree since you probably wake up everyday and say to yourself: "God bless America, and no one else!"

7:36 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

it's pretty much a consensus that they'd rather have a system that covers everybody

Of course it's good to "cover everybody," but we don't want to destroy the best health care in the world while doing it.

The degree to which liberals and leftists have idealized Canada's system is scary, since they don't seem to see any defects in the system.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your opening statement is incorrect. The package proposed at onset of the health care debate, the one with actual reforms in it, was not modeled from Canadian health care, except in one area. The federal government should be allowed to negotiate better prices for drugs and durable equipment like literally every other country in the world. The prior administration gave such a gift to pharma and we didn't even get dinner. But someone did...obviously.
Jacque C.
jacqueala@gmail.com

5:18 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

The package proposed at onset of the health care debate, the one with actual reforms in it, was not modeled from Canadian health care,

Read that I said. "socialized medicine in Canada was the model that proponents of ObamaCare looked to -- although happily they had to make some large compromises."


And indeed, Obama himself was saying that he wanted single payer (the Canadian system) until he because a presidential candidate and had to take a more moderate approach.

10:27 AM  

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