Friday, August 14, 2009

Health Care Stories: Pickering, Ontario, Canada

Lend Gordie your ear as he tells you how Canada's doctors took care of his. (Yes, you're allowed to groan at that one.)

No health care system is perfect, and Canada's does have its failings certainly. But, in the US, I think you're seeing a lot of fear-mongering by vested interests who stand to lose a lot of $$$ if changes are made to your current model.

I'm lucky to be a relatively healthy 43-year-old man, and, typical of a lot of guys, I don't like to see a doctor or a hospital unless I'm dying or seriously injured.

I can tell you of one experience, however, where neither was the case. It relates to a cyst that had developed in my ear lobe. It had been there for years, and, as it was not posing any health risk, I let it grow and grow until it started to become the focal point of some conversations.

I finally saw my family doctor about it. Unfortunately, he told me it qualified as a cosmetic procedure and that I'd have to pay for it myself. I didn't have to pay my family GP anything for his time, he simply referred me to a plastic surgeon.

I went in for a consultation, and the procedure was booked. Because I'd let it grow so large my ear lobe was now deformed with the skin stretched. Simply removing it without doing some cosmetic work would leave me with the look of a bassett hound.

It took about 3 months from the time of the consultation to the day the actual procedure was performed. It was wonderfully done, with nobody able to notice that my left ear lobe looked any different from the right ... unless I point out how the left the lobe is less rounded than the right.

Of course, the big question for a lot of people is probably cost. It was a couple years back so I don't recall the exact figure, but it was less than $400. In fact (if memory serves) it was only a little over $300.

With our hospitals here in Canada being government-run, there is no need to soak patients to drive up profits. And many procedures have a simple schedule, what Ontario's Health Insurance will pay.

I should point out that I'm somewhat lucky in having a family doctor, many Canadians don't. We do have a doctor shortage in some parts of this country, and those without a personal physician are forced to go to clinics.

For those who can afford any level of care needed, the U.S. system will probably seem more attractive. But for the many who are uninsured Canada's model probably seems like heaven.

Our system isn't completely "free" ... in an effort to control costs some procedures (like my cyst) require the patient to pay out of pocket. But I suspect if I were living in the U.S. it would have been $1,000 or more instead of just $300.

Pickering, Ontario, Canada

Please check out Gordie's blog, Canadian Soapbox.

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