Here is what some of our readers had to say about their experiences with the health care system in Canada. To submit a story of your own, click here. We unfortunately can't guarantee all responses will be posted:
Over the last 20 years we have had three major health issues--a kidney infection in 1982 that led to three and a half weeks in hospital while living in Manitoba; my wife's fatal liver cancer in 1995,including five weeks in hospital receiving palliative care in Kelowna, and now my own three year-old diagnosis of prostate cancer. In all cases the treatment received was of the highest quality, timely and provided with skill and sensitivity. Obviously I do not know what these have cost, and continue to cost, the health-care system. What I do know is that while we are not poor, neither are we wealthy. I am grateful to a system that has enabled us to receive the care we needed when it was needed without need for concern about the cost. My gratitude extends to all those who have devised and operate the system, including my fellow citizens who have helped in its financial support. I view with anxiety all those things, which now threaten the system, including the pressure for further privatization.
Since moving to Fairbanks Alaska from Canada, I've realized that the U.S. probably has some of the best care facilities in the world for catastrophic illnesses. If you just wish to maintain a decent level of health, however, this system is not for you. I made an appointment with a doctor about 3 or 4 months after arriving as I wanted to have my usual yearly check-up. Although I had health-care insurance I ended up paying $500 for the visit since my policy had no wellness clause. I learned that you need to code everything as a "necessary procedure" rather than a "screening" if you wish it to be covered. Even when covered, I have to pay about 20% and I'm one of the people with a good plan. What is the lesson here? Treasure universal health. Do not believe the propaganda that tells you that privatization leads to better and more options. If you are dying of rare and major illness then there is no better place than the United States. If you are just trying to stay healthy, then Canada is where you want to be.
I live in Red Deer, Alberta and broke my neck in a motor-vehicle accident in 1969 resulting in quadriplegia. I had a severely pinched spinal cord at the C5-C6 level and had a piece of bone removed from my hip and fused between the two vertabrae to strengthen and hold them. After being in a wheelchair for 31 years, I had the misfortune of breaking my neck again. I went immediately to emergency and after many x-rays, I was told it was just bruising. I saw my GP seven times in eight months and was told I had pulled a ligament to my bicep. I finally asked for a MRI, and was refused. Three weeks later I asked my Urologist for the MRI and he approved it. Immediately following the MRI, I was taken to the University of Alberta Hospital emergency via ambulance. According to the neurologist I saw, my cervical vertebrae had slipped backwards at an angle of close to 70 degrees since the accident. After a CT scan I was sent home with a custom-made neck collar, and put me on elective rather than emergency surgery. This was on November 19, 2000, and I finally had surgery on January 17, 2001. I've seen livestock get better medical treatment.
My name is Richard Shannon and I live in Kamloops B.C. I requested an appointment in Jan. 2002 to see a doctor regarding a knee replacement. I have just been notified that I have an appointment on Dec. 5th. 2002. That's eleven months and I have no idea how long I may have to wait for the actual operation.
My wife blew out her knee in a ski accident on Vancouver Island. Courtenay and Nanaimo hospitals had no orthopedic services available. I was advised by local doctors to fly her back to Toronto untreated. It was the worst hours of our lives. By the time we arrived in Toronto it was too late to schedule her in. It took 10 days before the knee was treated. Since the bone had now set, the knee had to be broken again.
I had a boy in hospital for the last 8 months with a brain injury as a result of a car crash. The care he has received has been exceptional. Three different hospitals later, we have yet to come across a cutback that has detracted from his care. I, on the other hand, have been waiting six months for an appointment to have an endometrial biopsy. I will not even see a specialist until the end of December.
I am a Canadian physician working in Houston, Texas. I left my practice in Vancouver, British Columbia four years ago. I left because I could not tolerate the Canadian health-care system. My patients waited ridiculous lengths of time for testing and even longer lengths of time for surgery. When Americans asked me what the health-care system was like in Canada I used to tell them that the wait for care was painfully long but no one died on the waiting lists. Now I cannot even tell them that. My father developed Bell's palsy when he was 54 years old. His neurologist told him that nothing could be done. My colleagues in Houston recommended a CT scan or an MRI of the head and neck to rule out a tumor. It took 3 months to get a CT scan. The results were not conclusive. It took another 5 months to get an MRI. By then the undiagnosed cancer had spread and it was already inoperable. He died 2 months ago. Had he lived south of the border his cancer would have been diagnosed 8 months earlier and he would have at least had a chance at surgery.
I have multiple health problems and take 11 different medications. I moved here 7 years ago. I spent 6 years driving 2 1/2 hours each way to my previous family doctor, often a couple of visits per month because I could not find a doctor locally in the small town I live in. Thankfully, a new physician moved to our town last week (and was booked solid in about 24 hours). Health care has to be a bigger priority for the all governments - federal, provincial and local. We got our doctor here because the people of our town set up a clinic and provided a building for new doctors. If a small town can do it, what is wrong with the provincial and federal governments?
I am one of the thousands of people in Canada who suffer from Post Polio Syndrome. I live in Saskatchewan and the closest PPS clinic is in Toronto. All levels (local, provincial, and federal) of health care have been unresponsive to our plight. They are so worried about jurisdiction they have given up on the patient.
I'm a 48 year-old RN with a background in emergency care. I know how stretched the health care system and I also know that every person working in the health care system is putting in 100% and more. But, I am terrified that I will end up in the emergency ward - forgotten, misdiagnosed and in pain. It's not because I'm not important but because someone else is sicker and in more need. So, make sure you have an advocate, a friend, a family member who can speak for you, watch out for you and listen for you. It's not because no one cares. It's because there's not enough time, personnel or space to deal with the medical needs and issues of this "new world."
We now live in the U.S. and would never trade the Canadian public health care system for the private care system that exists over here. While most of our health costs are covered but many others further down the economic ladder have no such safety net. How is the guy at the local grocery going to come up with $600 U.S. each month for health care? Even with health care insurance there is always the fine print where you have to determine what is covered and what isn't. There are all sorts of deductibles and fees that apply before the insurance kicks in. A lot of money goes into administration and avoidance of providing coverage to maintain the bottom line. My advice to Canadians: appreciate what you've got. Make it work. Pay a few bucks in user fees to stop abuse and keep the system solvent and alive.
An important part of health care that often isn't critically examined is the way that health-care information is delivered. Most organizations delivering health-care information spend a significant part of their budget on print materials that are not accessible to population it is targeted towards. For example, there is a diabetes program that has a substantial amount of print-based materials in English and French. Costs for translation into other languages are also a considerable cost. Nevertheless, many people who need the information aren't that literate. This is just one example of misspent dollars that could be used more productively. The whole area of health information needs to be critically analyzed. It is an area where significant resources have been invested.
My family doctor retired two years ago. I have not been able to get a new family doctor. All the doctors I have say that they already have a full patient load and cannot take on any new patients.
I am a Canadian who just returned from living in the U.S. for seven years. My wife (also Canadian) and our 2 children were born in the U.S. The U.S. health-care system is amazing. When I had a leg injury there was an MRI clinic in our doctors office and I was able to get treatment the same day that I saw my doctor. A small user fee, around $10, could save the Canadian system. Why are we even debating it? A little privatization will save the whole system.