US Should NOT Imitate Canadian Health Care System - Commentary

Commentary by Steve Jalsevac

TORONTO, August 12, 2009 ( - There have been many references to the government run Canadian health care system as being a model the United States should imitate. Americans are warned to beware of succumbing to that dangerous temptation, even though in Canada all Canadians are "covered" by the system.

It should first be acknowledged that there are indeed many wonderful doctors and other health care professionals and excellent facilities in Canada. However, and that is a huge however, the system has its severe problems and is often downright dangerous - at least in my experience and that of many fellow Canadians.

First off, all abortions are and have long been fully paid for by Canada's government provided health care. There are also other objectionable or otherwise questionably necessary procedures and research projects that are funded by the Canadian system, to which all Canadians are forced to pay for via their taxes. This has contributed to a dangerous culture of rapidly declining respect for the inherent dignity of human life within the Canadian medical system. 

Secondly, the severe shortage of doctors, nurses and medical facilities and equipment in Canada often causes anxiety and frightening experiences for those who have no choice but to brave an encounter with the nation's hospitals. I repeat, however, that there are indeed many wonderful people in the system. By no means are all experiences negative, but there are far, far too many disturbing experiences that cry out for major reform of a system that is often cruel in its neglect of the needs of suffering patients. A lot of this is so bad that it can hardly be believed.

Let me give some personal examples. One of my sons was seriously injured in a car accident in Virginia several years ago. He was fortunate to immediately receive high quality care at a local hospital and then phenomenal care at a first rate trauma center in the Washington, D.C. region. After two and one-half weeks, our insurance company required that we fly him to Toronto to what was considered the finest trauma facility in Canada.

The Toronto experience was often a nightmare. The contrast in the quality of medical professional and nursing care, compared to the US facilities, was severe. If our family members had not been present at the Canadian hospital for many hours each day over the next few months we doubt our son would have made it out of the hospital alive. We had to be there to constantly advocate for him, to supplement his care and encourage him (there were rarely enough nurses to properly care for him), to make sure he was being properly fed and to protect him from sometimes dangerously incompetent or insensitive hospital staff. Numerous other Canadians have told us of similar experiences.

Our local family doctor at the time marvelled at our son's eventual recovery. He bluntly stated that we were fortunate the accident did not happen in Canada and that our son would not have survived those first few weeks if he had been treated by the Canadian system.

Five years ago, another relative, 80 years old at the time, fell and broke her shoulder and waited for 7 1/2 hours in a Toronto hospital emergency department only to be told after getting an x-ray and painkillers to go home and call the fracture doctor the next day. She called the doctor as instructed and was told he could not see her for a week for further x-rays and treatment. In the meantime she suffered considerable discomfort. This type of occurence is very common. 

Visits to Canadian hospital emergency departments are usually marathon waiting sessions of 5 to 10 or more hours. My most recent two visits this year were for 7 and 12 hours respectively. As a many years' parent of 8 children, I can verify that the wait time to finally see a doctor, receive assessment and possible treatment and discharge has never been less that 5 hours and has in recent years averaged 7 to 9 hours. 

I have often waited in emergency departments that look like they have been flooded with patients from a just occurred local disaster, with patients overflowing the waiting rooms and on stretchers in the halls for hours on end, babies crying, people moaning and endless waiting, waiting just to be seen by someone, anyone.

Trouble is, no disasters had occurred. Those were just normal scenes in Canadian big city hospitals under Canada's government provided health care system. Strangely, when I was in southern India a few years ago (a pay for services system), the hospital emergency response time was vastly quicker although they had nothing like the fancy equipment and facilities of Canadian hospitals. Still, the treatement was excellent. It did the job and cost very little. I was stunned. It was something I was not used to.

Our family is fortunate to have a family doctor and we only go to hospital emergencies if our doctor is not available or a serious health issue occurs that needs immediate attention.

Millions of Canadians do not have a family doctor. They have to go to walk-in clinics (if there is one nearby or one that is open) or hospital emergency departments and endure those dreadful, often anxious and painful long waits. But even for those who have a family doctor, these doctors are overwhelmed by the demands on them and cannot be seen as readily as in the past. More anxious waiting. They are also seriously underpaid considering their ridiculously demanding work weeks and the massive costs of their past and ongoing medical training and the always rising cost of medical malpractice insurance.

This article could go on for pages, but for the rest I present an excellent YouTube video expose of the Canadian health system by some young Americans. Their production is well worth checking our for its, from my experiences, accurate exposure of some of the severe flaws of the Canadian system. It uses a humorous approach to convey some pretty sad, if not scary realities of a national health care system gone really bad, but trying to recover by adding more services on a user pay basis.

You are encouraged to view "ObamaCare Yay Or Nay? The Truth About Canada!" by Just click on the play button above.

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