Katya's Health Care Woes

Katya hasn't had much luck with health care providers in Canada and, frankly, since she's been here I've been noticing glaring cracks in our vaunted system.

As pretty much everybody knows, Canada has a single-payer universal health care system provided by the government. Each province is free to set up its own system, therefore in British Columbia every resident is billed $65 a month and have no choice but to pay it, whereas in Ontario health care is completely free (although your employer pays the premiums).

The problem with this system is that there is absolutely no choice allowed to the end-user (the patient), and the heavily bureaucratic system can run rough-shod over the patient with impunity. Medical staff can get away with being obnoxious and rude, and doctors can be completely indifferent, safe in the knowledge that you'll still come back and pay their bills with your tax dollars because where else are you going to go?

Last year, in Victoria, Katya developed something wrong with her back and neck and preliminary research suggested it could be a misalignment of her spine. We went to a walk-in clinic because we were on a two-year waiting list for a spot with a family doctor to open up. The physician at this clinic didn't poke around or check her heart or anything. She asked a couple of questions and then told Katya that it's probably nothing to worry about. Thank you come again.

Katya was perplexed. We chalked it up to one bad doctor.

Then one day Katya had a sudden, searing pain in her head that caused her to lose feeling in her arm and she was seeing bright lights dancing across her vision. She was panicking and so was I, so I drove her to emergency at the hospital. Despite her brain exploding and loss of feeling in a limb, the bureaucrat "gatekeepers" made us wait in line before giving us a bunch of forms to fill out, and then made us wait longer. Katya was in tears with pain and nurses, administrators and doctors just walked right past her while we waited.

The emergency waiting room was full. One guy was bleeding from his arm. He was finally triaged after nearly twenty minutes!

We waited for four hours in that place before Katya finally saw a doctor. Her symptoms had passed by then and the doctor didn't believe that there was anything wrong with her. It was unbelievable! The next day we took her to a different walk-in clinic where the doctor diagnosed her with migraines. I asked if it could be related to a spinal problem and the doctor said "Maybe, but that's a different issue and we only deal with one issue at a time here." So long for whole-health.

That's what $130 a month gets you in BC.

Since we moved to Ontario the situation hasn't been much better, although at least it's free here.

Thanks to help from my uncle and aunt, Katya was able to get a spot with a family physician. The only problem is that the people who run this particular "medical center" are snotty a-holes. They hung up on Katya twice because she didn't call during acceptable hours (which are between 10 am and noon, no exceptions). Katya's family doctor, who she met only once for an initial interview, was uninterested and more concerned with texting on her cell phone during the meeting. Katya still has a migraine problem and the walk-in clinics don't seem to care. They just keep throwing prescriptions at her and ushering her out the door.

The other day Katya was in tears with the frustration of Canada's health care system. Although Russian health care is a couple of decades behind in terms of technology and medical training, at least it is possible to see a doctor when you need one, and the doctors and staff really care for their patients.

Russia has a two-tiered health care system, whereby individuals are free to purchase private health insurance if they want, or can use the public system. Katya, not being wealthy, used the public system and didn't have problems with service. When I was in Russia I was insured by my employer and used the private system, and my doctor was responsive and caring and provided service in a timely manner. South Korea has an excellent two-tiered health care system, and I used both the public and private doctors there (having been surprised by a strange allergy to Korean fruit juices) and it was top-notch.

Here in Canada people go hysterical when anybody suggests an overhaul of our system. There are literally protests and ranting editorials and a lot of America-bashing whenever somebody might bring up the fact that maybe our system is outdated and top-heavy and unable to meet the needs of a modern society. I strongly advocate a two-tiered health care system, as not only will that ease the pressure on the public system but also bring back some professionalism and decent human courtesy to a stagnant and self-entitled health care system that cares nothing for the patients.

Katya is proof of this.

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