Marquette Warrior: Socialized Medical Hell in Canada

Friday, September 07, 2007

Socialized Medical Hell in Canada

From The Toronto Star:
Patients suing province over wait times

Man, woman who couldn’t get quick treatment travelled to U.S. to get brain tumours removed

Two Ontario patients who had brain tumours removed in the United States because they say they couldn’t get quick treatment here are suing the provincial government over what they claim are unjustly long wait times for medical care.

Lindsay McCreith, 66, of Newmarket and Shona Holmes, 43, of Waterdown filed a joint statement of claim yesterday against the province of Ontario. Both say their health suffered because they are denied the right to access care outside of Ontario’s “government-run monopolistic” health-care system. They want to be able to buy private health insurance.

Ontario’s “monopoly” over essential health services and its delay in providing the services have left both patients to “endure significant financial, emotional and physical hardship to access such services in the United States,” states the claim .

The accusations made in the statement of claim have not been proven in court.

Holmes began losing her vision in March 2005, she told a press conference at Queen’s Park yesterday. An MRI in May 2005 revealed a tumour in her brain. Her family doctor couldn’t expedite appointments booked with specialists for July 19 and Sept. 19, 2005. As the tumour pressed on her optic nerves, her vision deteriorated. Afraid to wait any longer, she went to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Within a week she met three specialists and was told she had a fluid-filled sac growing near her pituitary gland at the base of her brain. They urged her to have it taken out immediately. She went home with the hopes of quickly removing what is known as a Rathke’s cleft cyst.

Unable to get surgery fast, she returned to Arizona and had the mass removed on Aug. 1, 2005. Her vision was restored in 10 days. The Holmes family is now in debt $95,000 because of medical costs.

“My husband has taken a second full-time job. We’ve re-mortgaged our home. It has to be known. People can’t go through this,” said Holmes, a family mediator. “I was very fortunate to save my eyesight but the cost and the battle has been devastating.”

Holmes’ experience was similar to that of Lindsay McCreith, a retired auto collision repair shop owner. According to the statement of claim, McCreith suddenly experienced seizures on Jan. 2, 2006. After waiting seven hours in a Newmarket emergency ward, he was examined by an internist. A computed tomography or CT scan showed a large wedge-shaped brain tumour. He was discharged from hospital four days later with a diagnosis of stroke and a prescription for anti-seizure medication.

Worried the tumour might be cancerous, McCreith and his family wanted an MRI. He was given an appointment date four months later. McCreith went to the U.S. and paid $494.67 (U.S.) for an MRI. Armed with the scan, he saw his Ontario family doctor, who referred McCreith to a neurologist. He was examined on Feb. 8, 2006. He was referred to a neurosurgeon but would have to wait three months.

Unhappy with this, he returned to Buffalo. In early March, during a biopsy, the tumour was found to be malignant and surgically removed. He paid $27,650 for his consultation, biopsy and surgery in Buffalo and OHIP has refused to reimburse him because he failed to seek pre-approval for the expense, the claim notes.
Socialized medicine, quite simply, is an idea whose time is past.

For it to work, two things must be true.

First, the population on which it is imposed must be highly deferential, and willing to tolerate being told by government bureaucrats that they can’t have the medical care they need.

In this, American is ahead of the curve, with the rest of the world catching up. More and more, people are demanding that if they can be helped they must be helped.

This, of course, puts huge strain on rigid government systems.

Secondly, for socialized medicine to work, technology must move slowly. When it moves ahead in leaps and bounds, a government bureaucracy (and rigid government budgeting) has trouble keeping up. If there were no such thing as an MRI, there would be no patients demanding MRIs and no fiscal problems keeping up with the demand for MRIs.

Thus the very expensive but also flexible and highly advanced health care system in the U.S. stays on the cutting edge, while government run systems struggle to keep up with the demands of citizens who know that decent health care is possible, and who less and less will settle for what government is willing to hand out.

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