This morning I’ve been reflecting on the debate about health care that’s happening south of the border. Like many Canadians I’ve been in disbelief watching the rhetoric escalate. The outright lies, and Orwellian double-speak by special interest groups in the US have me wondering how my American friends will ever achieve a resolution.
What caused this reflection? It has been a week since my last posting, and that has partly been due to an experience with our health care system in Canada.
Last weekend I dropped my son off at McMaster University in Hamilton. It’s his freshman year, so he is living in residence, and he was very much looking forward to frosh week and getting to know the other young people he would be living with. By Monday evening however, he had developed a stomach problem. He visited the on-Campus clinic. The doctors there thought it might be a flu, and advised him to stay in bed, which he did all day Tuesday.
By Tuesday evening he knew it was more than a simple flu bug, as his stomach problem had escalated to extreme abdominal pain, accompanied by fever. He called McMaster Emergency Services and was taken to the emergency department at the university hospital. We got a call from him at about 7:00 telling us he was there.
I grabbed the 9:00 PM flight to Toronto, cabbed it from Toronto to Hamilton, and was there by 11:30, by which time he had had blood work, and an ultra-sound, and the diagnosis was confirmed as appendicitis. At 1:00 AM he was prepped for surgery, and by 4:00 AM his appendix had been removed and the infection cleaned up. The surgeon, a Dr. Kellsie, informed us that the appendix had been leaking but not yet ruptured, which made the job easier.
He spent another 36 hours in the hospital, and came home with me last night. Today he’s walking slowly, but obviously on the mend.
For my American friends who worry about Canadian style health care, and who are enduring the rhetoric around “death boards”, and “protecting our seniors”, I offer the following observations:
- This was a true emergency, and it was dealt with promptly. It was just 8 hours from admission to diagnosis to the completion of surgery.
- The quality of the care was world class. He was attended by a team of five physicians and residents following the surgery, and housed in a semi-private room on a ward with just 12 rooms.
- The cost to my family was $0. Not only that, it didn’t drive up insurance premiums, or have any of the other negative effects associated with privately insured health care.
- The cost of the drugs he is taking during his recovery – two antibiotics, and pain medication, was just over $50, and I can probably get my drug plan to cover it.
I’m sure that the Canadian system isn’t perfect. While I lived in the US I had gold-standard quality health care as a Microsoft employee, and there is nothing that I am aware of in this country that matches the best of the best in the United States. However, for those confused or made fearful by the rhetoric being used on Capitol Hill, you need not fear “Canadian style” health care. It’s head and shoulders above what the tens of millions of un-insured in the United States receive, and the quality is as good or better than what the average insured American receives today. I can only say that because I’ve lived in both countries and experienced both health care systems.
More to the point, however, I would ask the following of my American friends. As you listen to your leaders debate this issue, ask yourselves what three days of emergency hospitalization would cost in your country. My recollection is that it’s probably well in excess of $30,000. Next ask yourselves whether it’s fair that families be ruined over routine, but unforeseen, medical needs.
These are questions only you can answer.
As for me, I am profoundly grateful for the incredible care that the team at McMaster hospital delivered, and the speed with which it was delivered.