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Socialized Medicine’s Deadly Wait Times

Advocates for government-run healthcare constantly praise single-payer systems in Europe and Canada as paragons of patient satisfaction.  But how well are patients treated in these countries?  

Consider Laura Hillier, a teenage resident of Ontario, Canada who badly needed a bone marrow transplant to treat her cancer.  Numerous donors matched with Laura and were ready to donate.  There was just one problem; the closest hospital didn’t have any spare beds to perform her procedure.

The Juravinski Hospital informed Laura she was number thirty-three on their waiting list, and only had enough beds to perform five transplants per month. “It is crazy to have to be on a wait-list when you have a donor and you are ready to go,” said Laura. “They said some people relapse in the wait, so they get cancer again, some people die.”

After months of waiting, Laura succumbed to her cancer and passed away earlier this year.  Her tribute Facebook page, Hope for Laura Hillier, slammed Canada’s government-run healthcare system, saying “Though Laura's casket was a beautiful sentiment from her friends and family, Laura's fight, and now our fight, is to change the medical system to end the deadly wait times for patients requiring a bone marrow transplant.”

Laura is just one of many victims of socialized medicine.  Patients in Canada on average wait eighteen weeks before they see a specialist.  Patients in Britain have it even worse. A report by Britain’s National Health Service estimates that 297,000 patients wait at least six months to see their doctor. These include more than 6,100 individuals who wait over a year for operations.

In theory, everyone in Canada and Europe has a guaranteed right to free healthcare. In reality, government-run healthcare systems regularly deny patients essential healthcare in order to meet centrally-planned budget goals. They restrict new and lifesaving medicines, curtail access to medical technologies like MRI’s and CT scanners and shrink the supply of hospital beds.

Many patients never get treated at all.  In July, 1997, doctors diagnosed Brian Booy of Bristol, United Kingdom with angina, a chest pain caused by coronary heart disease, and said he needed triple bypass surgery.  Brian and his family patiently waited -and waited- for the Bristol Royal Infirmary’s cardiac unit to admit him.

"We were frightened to go out or go on holiday in case the phone rang and we missed [Brian’s appointment],” said Pat Booy, Brian’s wife. “We really didn't think the waiting list was going to be that long, we thought a couple of months."

Brian waited 72 weeks on the Bristol Royal Infirmary’s waiting list before he died from a heart attack in January, 1999.

“When they told us we were on the waiting list we just accepted it, thinking it might be a few months. But it just went on and on and in the end you just think it will never happen,” said Pat. “Angina is not the sort of thing you can wait for. It just gets worse and it needs to be dealt with straight away.”

To add insult to injury, the infirmary’s cardiac department sent a letter to Pat, offering Brian an appointment for bypass surgery- one year after he died.        

Fortunately, patients in single-payer countries have another option; they can leave. Over 52,000 Canadians travel abroad every year to pay out-of-pocket for their healthcare.  One company, Timely Medical Alternatives, links Canadians with healthcare providers in the United States and negotiates deep discounts on their behalf.

“We are gratified to have helped save ten peoples’ lives by expediting their life saving surgery when they could not get a timely [appointment] date in the public health system,” said Richard Baker, founder of Timely Medical.  “Canadians have come to the realization that the costs associated with waiting for surgery are greater than the cost of paying for that surgery.”

Timely Medical was the difference between life and death for Shirley Healey, a retiree from Vernon, British Columbia.  Shirley was diagnosed with mesenteric ischemia, a disorder that clogs critical arteries and requires immediate surgery.  Yet despite her critical condition, the local Kelowna hospital repeatedly rescheduled her operation.

After four months of delays, Shirley reached out to Timely Medical. The company connected her with a surgery center in Bellingham, Washington that performed an angioplasty stenting operation that restored circulation in her arties, just one day after her consultation.

“It’s not the fault of the doctors here [in Canada], it’s the health care system,” said Shirley. “It’s sad that people have to pay to get their operations; but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now.”

Canadians are lucky that American doctors still have a modicum of freedom to deliver healthcare in a timely fashion.  But if Obamacare’s architects continue to mold America’s healthcare system in Canada’s single-payer image, they will snuff out the last place on earth where patients have a fighting chance at life. 

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Saturday, 24 February 2018

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