Of Stimulating Conversation and Insights in our Health Care System (Part 2)

As we all know, the government controls most of the funds and finances in healthcare. This is what allows healthcare to be “‘free”’ for citizens of our country.

However, since the power to move large sums of money for different initiatives in healthcare are largely centralized in the government, the process can become unbearably bureaucratic, where things simply take a long time to get done. Moreover, because of the bureaucratic nature which has been forced upon Canada’s healthcare system, those in charge of making significant choices in budgeting are unaware of the most pressing problems that physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals experience firsthand, every single day.

The lady I spoke with described a young high school graduate diagnosed with a type of cancer, and subsequently needed a stem cell transplant. However, due to a cut in government funding, as well as a myriad of other problems factored into what physicians called “a crisis” for stem cell transplant program. She was absolutely outraged at how the government did little to heed the advice of the physicians who wrote to them, and how the cut in government funding for healthcare during the past couple years will contribute to more tragedies like that particular young lady.

Moreover, because physicians are increasingly limited in giving their patients viable treatment options, and subsequently feel increasingly powerless, many are recruited to our neighbours in the south, where they may achieve greater autonomy and give better treatment options that they know will work (so long as their patients have the money). The lady told me that Canada, in fact, is in need of specialists, and that one of her good friends had to be called back from retirement because they couldn’t find anyone else to fill his shoes.

And it’s not simply the long wait times for processing most things that contribute to Ontario’s abysmal healthcare system. The lady’s own experience highlighted the problems with financial allocation the government is struggling with. In Ontario, there are only several PET scans and other various expensive equipment which are funded by the government to buy, maintain, and use for patients. However, even using this medical equipment can result in long wait times, and often there are not enough time slots for all the patients who may require them.

As you can see, this can result in a disaster. Those who desperately need a PET scan already be too far gone in their cancer stage that they may have to be sent directly to palliative care, and those who do need it, but can still be pushed back a couple more months, are pushed back. Once this cycle begins, there is no way of stopping it unless the government invests more money than they tried to save by simply buying one machine, or cutting down on usage and maintenance to balance the budget.

Healthcare professionals are frustrated with the government since they are rendered increasingly powerless, and the government is so far removed from witnessing the problem firsthand that they allocate funds poorly, and often limit spending without concern for future consequences. Patients, like the lady I spoke with, are increasingly frustrated with the lengthy and highly time-consuming process of getting almost anything done. Those who can afford it look for better healthcare elsewhere, while those not as fortunate get lost in the process and many lose their life waiting, just like the high school graduate (I have linked her story below).

In light of the recent election, many Canadians probably feel smug, and perhaps even a sense of superiority. Free healthcare has always contributed to our sense of pride. However, I stand to question that. Has our pride turned into arrogance?

Frankly, I’m disappointed in our country for not only failing to provide quality healthcare, but for perpetuating all kinds of cycles – health inequity, for example – that we hoped to eradicate.

We need to step back, and take a critical, objective look at our healthcare system. We need to strive to improve it, and we need to create awareness for all kinds of problems. And I start with this post.

(Written by Judy Chen / Image Source)

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