NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Health Horror Stories From North Of The Border

January 17, 2000

Canadians are fed up with their state-run health care system which was put in place in the 1970s. In fact, 93 percent of those polled last month said that improving health care should be the government's top priority. In another poll, 74 percent of respondents supported the idea of user fees -- which have been outlawed since 1984.

State-managed medicine has led to not enough doctors, nurses or hospital beds to meet the demand.

  • On one recent day, emergency rooms in 23 of Toronto's 25 hospitals had to turn away ambulances -- and police officers had to shoot to death a distraught father who had taken a doctor hostage in an attempt to get treatment for his sick baby.
  • In Winnipeg, "hallway medicine" has become so common that hallway stretcher locations have permanent numbers.
  • Ambulances filled with ill patients have repeatedly stacked up this winter in the parking lot of Vancouver General Hospital, where an estimated 20 percent of patients in the midst of heart attacks must wait an hour or more for treatment.
  • Waiting lists for surgery in some Canadian hospitals can stretch from months to as long as five years.

Canada is experimenting with a two-tier, public-private health system -- but it applies only to dentists and veterinarians. Michael Bliss, a medical historian recently wrote in The National Post newspaper: "So we have the absurdity in Canada that you can get faster care for your gum disease than your cancer, and probably more attentive care for your dog than your grandmother."

The waiting list for magnetic resonance imaging is so long that one man recently reserved a session for himself at a private animal hospital which had such a machine. He registered under the name Fido.

Allan Rock, Canada's health minister, recently wrote: "Forget about equal access. Let people buy their way to the front of the line."

Source: James Brooke, "Full Hospitals Make Canadians Wait and Look South," New York Times, January 16, 2000.

 

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