Despite their love of liberalism and widespread opposition to the Iraq War, our friends to the north have been none too pleased with the Democrats and some of the ideas they’ve put forward in the primary campaign and the Great White North has turned into a source of constant bad news for both Clinton and Obama.
Canadian leaders have taken particular exception to promises from Clinton and Obama to repeal or renegotiate the NAFTA treaty. Canada is the single largest source of foreign oil for the United States and they have threatened to strike back against any attempts to weaken NAFTA by cutting off the flow of Canadian petroleum, potentially raising the price of a gallon of gas in the United States into the double digits.
More bad news comes from an investigative article which made the front page of the Globe and Mail on Saturday. With both Obama and Clinton strongly advocating socialized medicine, the article provides a grim look at the failure of that approach to healthcare in Canada.
Apparently hundreds of Canadian patients every year are sent south to hospitals in the United States to receive critical care which local Canadian hospitals are unable to provide because of overcrowding, a shortage of skilled doctors and bureaucratic mismanagement.
In Ontario since 2003, 400 cardiac patients in the middle of heart attacks have been rushed across the border in ambulances to receive treatment from hospitals in Detroit. They arrive at the hospital, are given artery-clearing drugs, and if those don’t work the only option is to rush them to the United States for an emergency angioplasty. It’s a relatively commonplace operation available in virtually every US hospital, but in Ontario they have virtually no surgeons capable of performing one.
Similar problems exist throughout Canada. Ontario has also sent 188 neurosurgery patients and at least 25 high risk pregnancies to hospitals in Michigan and New York. Hospitals in British Columbia are sending pregnant women and patients with spinal injuries to Washington State for treatment which they cannot handle. Just in the last year over 150 Canadians with life-threatening interior or exterior bleeding injuries have had to be rushed to the US for treatment.
This is not just a problem with one hospital. It appears to be system wide. A previous article cites cases from a number of hospitals in different provinces, and earlier articles in the series explore the regular flow of patients from Canada to the United States for faster access to necessary treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
A 2005 case in Quebec points to one of the largest problems in the system, the long waits for any kind of treatment. The typical 8 hour wait for essential treatment in an emergency can be the difference between life and death, which is why so many emergencies are being sent to US hospitals when they are nearby. The problem is just as bad for less urgent treatment or to see a specialist where the wait may be months – in some cases long enough to turn a minor concern into a life-threatening illness. In the Quebec ruling, the court declared that long waits were a threat to the “liberty, safety and security” of citizens and commented that “delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.”
A series of studies from the Fraser Institute look at waiting times for treatment in Canada and the picture isn’t pretty. Waits are long and getting longer every year and have almost doubled in the last 15 years. In 2006 the average wait was 16 weeks just to see an Orthopedic specialist and another 24 weeks to see a surgeon. 8 months is a long, long time when your knee or hip is in such bad shape that you can’t walk. Even the simplest tests take too long. It can take 3 weeks to get an ultrasound when virtually every doctor in the US can do one in their office as needed.
It’s not surprising that Canadians who are rich enough to afford it are seeking treatment outside of the country, going to the United States, Mexico, India, the Philippines and even Cuba. Conveniently located US hospitals like Henry Ford Hospital even advertise for patients in Canada, and specialized travel agencies in Canada offer medical tourism packages to popular destinations. All of this does little to help the average Canadian who can’t afford to fly to California for their cancer treatment like wealthy Liberal MP Belinda Stronach.
Perhaps most telling of all is that while Canadians come to the US every day for the timely, quality care they cannot get at home, no one from the US is going north for treatment, though their heavily regulated pharmacies and low drug prices do seem to have an attraction.
So this shambling disaster is the model for what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to bring to the United States – a system so inefficient and inadequate that many Canadians are working to convert to a two tiered public/private system. The healthcare system in the United States may indeed have many problems, but turning in fear to a solution which has been proven to be a disaster is not a rational response. Perhaps we should pay attention to what’s going on in Canada and not let fearmongering and political opportunism stampede us into a cure which is worse than the disease.