Life after Transplant

What universal healthcare means to me

Public healthcare was introduced in Saskatchewan in 1962. It caused doctors to walk out of hospitals and go on strike, but after three weeks, they returned to work, realizing things weren’t going to change.

Prior to this, doctors charged whatever they saw fit and many Canadians went bankrupt from overdue medical bills. In 1966, the federal government followed suit and introduced the first universal health care program in Canada.

The programs were new and by no means perfect, and doctors began billing patients above the amount covered by the public health care in order to raise their incomes.

In 1984, the Canadian Federal government passed the Canada Health Care Act which banned extra billing. The act ended any user fees related to physician and hospital services.

In our current system, the basis remains that there is universal coverage for medically necessary health care services provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay.

Health coverage for any service outside of that of physician and hospital are covered in different degrees based on which province you live in. In Saskatchewan, for example, children under the age of 18 never pay more than $25 for a prescription no matter their private insurance coverage. Private insurance then covers that amount if you have insurance either through work or purchased privately.

In Manitoba, on the other hand, coverage for prescription medications is given based on your income and they end up paying considerably more for prescriptions than in Saskatchewan. When they have to be transferred out of province for services not offered internally, however, they get a huge amount of provincial coverage for meals, accommodations, etc whereas in Saskatchewan, we are not covered for any expense related to medical travel.

I often hear people talk about how bad our healthcare is in Canada. Our wait times are longer, people abuse the system and we don’t have it as good as in the U.S in terms of care.

When I hear people say things like “as long as you have good insurance then you’ll have way better care” all I hear is “if they wanted healthcare, they should have gotten a better job.”

While in hospital, we saw all kinds of people: teachers, business people, doctors, construction workers, teen parents, people working in the service industry, etc. The truth is that anyone can require extensive medical services – it doesn’t matter what you do or how much money you have.

I don’t believe that anyone should be refused medical care beyond basic emergency medicine simply because they do not have adequate insurance coverage.

Now to tackle some of the common complaints that I hear :

Wait times are too long. The truth is, if your being told to wait, it’s a good thing! Congratulations, your ailment is not life threatening. Providing coverage for everyone in our healthcare system will inevitably have a few trade-offs. The system can become overloaded quickly, therefore triage becomes important in all aspects of the system, not simply in emergency rooms. If your surgery is being postponed, you better believe that someone in worse shape is getting your slot. Laura bumped many children from surgery after her emergencies – because for her, at that moment, it was life or death. If you are being made to wait, it is because you can.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t advocate for your care or the care of a loved one. Medical professionals, admin assistants, registrars and anyone else working in healthcare are human and people can fall through the cracks. Advocate for yourself and your loved ones but try to understand that there is usually a reason for the delay, and that that person needs the service more at that time.

People abuse the system. Of course they do! We have free universal healthcare, some people are bound to abuse that privilege. I don’t believe that a few people taking advantage of the system warrants allowing others experiencing tough times to lose their right to healthcare. No matter the system, there will be those that take advantage, we are human after all.

We don’t have as good of doctors as hospitals as the U.S. I’m not entirely sure where people are consistently finding this information. With our small population, Canadians have created Pablum in the 1930s which helped fight off malnutrition in infants during the Great Depression, discovered and developed the extract of insulin used to treat type 1 diabetes, created child safe medication bottles, open heart surgery (Dr Wilfred Bigelow learned that lowering the bodies core temperature allowed him to work on the heart), Cystic Fibrosis was first identified here and the method for diagnosis was developed here as well. Not on this list (taken from global is the fact that Dr West, currently working at the Stollery, was the researcher behind ABO incompatible heart transplants, allowing for SO many children to receive a heart in time.

The U.S has some world class physicians, of course, as does Germany and Saudi Arabia and Australia – because great physicians can come from anywhere. There are also world class physicians right here in Canada! And here, they will treat any citizen that walks through the door, which I think is pretty great.

The simple fact is that our healthcare system saved Laura’s life and allowed us to maintain possession of our home and go minimally in debt while receiving her life-saving and life-sustaining treatments. We paid nothing to the hospital and were never asked to show our insurance coverage before considering a treatment option.

I am beyond thankful that we have universal healthcare in our great country – there are improvements that could be made- yes, but there is no perfect system and I, for one, am eternally grateful for what we have.

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