Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Can We Really Complain About Our Health Care System in Canada?

Two days ago I headed to the hospital in Owen Sound for some surgery. Being a typical man, I had ignored some pains I had been having for well over a year, but finally broke down recently and went to the hospital to find out what the problem was.

My first trip to the hospital was back in April, and what I discovered then was that I was having gallbladder attacks. Great, now I knew the cause of the intensely painful attacks I was having every month or so in the middle of the night.

I was told that in order to correct this I would need to have my gallbladder removed. Removed? I didn't like the sound of that at all. I tend to believe that if there are parts in your body, they are there for a reason, and rather than remove them, perhaps you can find a way to fix them.

I went to see our Naturopathic Doctor, and she advised me to go through a series of cleanses in order to flush out the troublesome gallstones which were the source of the gallbladder attacks. These cleanses went very well and I did pass several gallstones. Total cost including a couple of trips to my Naturopath was about $400.
At the time, I canceled the surgery that was booked for May in order to give the cleanses a try.

I think that this would have worked very well and fixed the problem IF I HAD CONTINUED TO FOLLOW THROUGH. Instead, once I started to feel better, and I was no longer having attacks, I went back to normal routine and stopped doing the cleanses.

BIG MISTAKE. I certainly can't fault my Naturopath as it was I who dropped the ball. She has done wonders with other problems that I have had that regular doctors just couldn't fix, or wanted to fix by loading me up with chemicals (drugs) which I am not a big fan of.

Fast forward to August and I have another gallbladder attack. My first since April (when I had been having them monthly for over a year). This gallbladder attack resulted in a stay in the hospital for a few days. Once released, I went home pretty certain that I would have to start taking a serious look at surgery. Two days after I got home, I had the most painful event I have had in my entire life- and I have had a few painful events. My spouse took me to the hospital, and the emergency department rushed me directly in to a doctor. This time it wasn't the gallbladder, it was acute pancreatitis. Now things are getting serious as pancreatitis which was brought about as a result of my gallbladder issues can kill you. I was kept in the hospital for several days until the doctors deemed it safe for me to go home and I was strongly advised to have my gallbladder removed as soon as possible.

Which brings me to two days ago, and my surgery which has cemented my high regard for our health care system. I am far from a socialist, in fact my political views can mostly be lumped into the libertarian philosophy, but there are certain services that I do believe should be provided by and administered by our governments- education and health care being the two highest on my list.

In the last few months I have had the following tests and procedures:

* X-rays

* Two Ultrasounds

* CT Scan

* Upper GI Scan

* ERCP Scope

* Countless blood tests

* Gallbladder removal surgery

Unfortunately, the gallbladder removal surgery did not go as well as had been hoped, and the laparoscopic method had to be ditched in favour of the traditional 12” incision full open surgery as the acute inflammation of my gallbladder (a result of ignoring the problem for so long) had made it impossible to remove with the newer, less invasive laparoscopic method.

With all of these procedures, and ultimately the surgery, I always felt that I was receiving top notch care. During my hospital stays they even accommodated my vegetarian and dairy-free diet.

What did all of this cost me? Nothing. Aside from paying for parking at the hospitals several times, and some prescribed medications, there was no out-of-pocket expense for me.

If I was in a similar situation in the United States as a self-employed person, unless I had some really good (expensive) insurance, this would have cost me thousands of dollars (I've seen price tags in excess of $8,000 for the gallbladder surgery alone).

While there is always plenty for people to complain about, and I even hear complaints about our health care system--emergency room waits are too long, the waiting lists for certain surgeries are too long and so on--at the end of the day, we have it pretty good in this country.

I for one love living in a country where no matter if you are rich or poor, you will receive the same care when you are ill at no out-of-pocket cost to you. Yes, our taxes are high in this country, but if you were to add what Americans pay for their health care out of their own pockets to the taxes that they pay, we are pretty much even.

Article & Images © Stephen Vance 2008

This post originally appeared on Stephen's blog, Mr. Writer: Musings from Meaford. Check it out.

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