Thursday, September 24, 2009

More from Canada: Part II of Daughter's Report

My lovely daughter has submitted a second installment relating her family's personal experiences with Canadian "free" health care.

When I spoke to her today, she told me about an ex-pat friend who is extremely frustrated with the Canadian system, to the point of returning home to Wisconsin for "procedures." Before US care changes for the worse, no doubt.

We hope to have a report from her in future days.

For the time being, posted below is part deux of my daughter's report. And lest readers fall into the trap of believing it's all free, here are some references on taxes in Canada. (Sales tax on nearly everything is 13% just to begin with.)

Income taxes in Canada.

Other taxes and charges in Canada.

Here's the personal report.

My husband loves to tell people when they ask about our healthcare system up here that it's "a great place to be healthy". He says it in a joking manner, but is very serious about that observation.

I'm the membership chair for our local American Women's Club up here. That means I'm a liaison for women who move to our area and are joining our club. It’s a wonderful position, and I enjoy the interaction with fellow Americans new to this experience.

Can you guess what their first question to me often is? If you guessed "How do I find a Doctor," you’re correct. While for many women, finding the right hairdresser and a good school might top the list, for Americans moving to Canada, their top concern is finding a Doctor, since they've never heard anything good about Canadian healthcare. If they come with a child who has medical issues (and many do) it's even more of a priority.

In our town of about 150,000 people, we have many Doctors. Family practitioners are the most common (not many pediatricians in the area), and many work in a group setting under a walk-in clinic storefront. While anyone off the street can go to a walk-in, not many of those Doctors are accepting new patients.

There are over 1.5 million residents in the province of Ontario without a Doctor. There's not much being done to stop that number from growing. Few family physicians are accepting patients, and if they are, one must "interview" with the Doctor before being taken on. The assumption is that if you are too "high maintenance," you could be turned away. A Doctor doesn't want to spend too much time on one patient if their chronic needs compromise their time with other patients.

This is the irony; a Doctor is in the field to help sick people, but because the system in place keep his services in high demand, he is forced to turn away those people who need him most because they require too much time and his expertise. In short, you're lucky if you can find a Doctor, and a good one at that.

Once you've found a family Doctor, making appointments to get your sick children in is difficult. You're vying for a limited number of spots per day with potentially hundreds of other moms and their sick kids. What's a mom to do?

I've made my rounds of the walk-in clinics, and know which ones to go to for a shorter wait ,and which ones are open on weekends . A long wait (1-2 hours) is not unusual. There's typically one Doctor covering a shift ,and rarely a nurse or nurse practitioner to help lighten his work load and move the line through.

Some walk-in clinics only squeeze you in between the people with appointments; that can sometimes double your wait time, which is not fun with two kids in tow. I confess as a mom that when my kids get any sign of fever, sore throat, or cough, I'm at the Doctor's office. Their condition can turn on a dime, and with our weather up here, things can get ugly and spread fast.

With "free healthcare" like this, it's easy to rationalize the trip to the Doctor since it doesn't cost me anything. However, when you begin adding up all the moms in a town this size, and throw in an illness that's being passed around town, you've got an overloaded system very quickly.

On a brighter note, you'd be surprised to know that for a "free" system of healthcare, it's not so easy to acquire. Here's the list of what to bring to prove you're qualified:$File/9998-82E_.pdf

For starters, you have to prove citizenship (don't let Obama know this), proof of residency (they need to know you're a hard working individual whose taxes will keep the system supported), and proof of identity (no aliases allowed). A 90 day waiting period after entering the country is required, and even for that, you must have "official proof" (work visa, border crossing papers etc).

I wish I could say those 90 days were worth the wait, but I'll have to kindly refrain from making any offensive remarks here.

I was raised right, you know.

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