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My memories of life in this city are often centered around major events in my life, both good and bad. I think it is this way for most of us.
For this reason, a lot of what I recall comes from the hospitals where I go when I or a loved one become ill.
Although I was born in a hospital in a farm town in Nova Scotia, it is the hospitals of the Montreal and Winnipeg areas that I have had the most experiences with.
Now, I believe most Americans will be somewhat surprised to discover that health care in Canada is a disorganized mess, with some of the best and worst facilities in the developed world.
I know the Democrats tend to hold Canada up as an example of how health care should work, with free universal health care for all. If only it were true.
Don't get me wrong, I still see the benefits of the Canadian system, and it is one of the main reasons I have not fled across the border to the land of lower taxes and better shopping. But it is a system on the verge of collapse.
Allow me to explain, by way of relating what I have seen happen in Montreal over the years, culminating in my first experience a few days ago with what I have christened "Windows Healthcare".
When I was younger, one could appear at any hospital in the Montreal area with their health care card in hand and after less than 30 minutes, a doctor would see you and work towards a diagnosis. The equipment was sometimes new, but often old, yet the level of care was exceptional.
The hospitals I knew best were well-established and well-known, such as Lachine General in Lachine, where my uncle was born, and where my family usually went whenever we needed hospital care, or the Reddy Memorial in Westmount, just a block from Plaza Alexis Nihon and the Forum.
Other hospitals in the area included Lakeshore General in Pointe-Claire, LaSalle General in LaSalle, Montreal General and the Royal Victoria downtown, and the Jewish General in Cote-des-Neiges.
One time, I had a cyst explode, and required surgery as soon as possible. My grandmother made a few calls, and her doctor at Lachine General found a surgeon at Reddy Memorial willing to operate on me that very afternoon. It was Christmas Eve, 1989.
The surgery went well, and I recovered quickly. I will always remember how well Dr. Weissglass treated me, and how quickly the hospital admitted me, despite my situation being important, but not life threatening.
A few years later, in 1995, I broke my arm when I slipped on the ice while rushing to catch a night bus. I was downtown at the time, so I walked to the Reddy Memorial and went to the admissions desk at the ER.
I was treated brusquely and told that there was a two hour wait for a bed, so I would have to be patient. There was also no doctor due to be working on the floor for another five hours, so I would have to wait in a hospital bed till morning. I waited, and was treated in the morning by doctors who were busy, but still cared.
Two years later, the Reddy Memorial and Lachine General were among a large group of hospitals forced to close, due to budget cutbacks. Some of their staff dispersed to other hospitals, but many simply chose to retire.
By 2005, I had developed gallstones, and sought help at Lakeshore General. Parking at the hospitals was no longer free, and the lines were often six hours long. Still, I was treated well, and only had to wait three months for my surgery. And when I came out of surgery, I even had the chance to see an empty waiting room, as seen here.
Since that time, I have returned to the hospital ER with my wife several times, since like most Quebecers, we cannot find a family doctor who is accepting new patients. Each time, the wait gets longer and longer. Which brings us to Windows healthcare.
Last Thursday, my wife was worried about her foot, which she had seen a doctor for on Tuesday. She had been in the Arctic, and had developed a bad blister from her boots, which had taken on a weird shape when kept in storage over the summer. The blister became infected, and started causing pain up the entire length of her leg.
She was evacuated back down to Montreal, and whisked by ambulance to Montreal General, where after seven hours, she was seen by a doctor who prescribed antibiotics and pain killers, and sent her home.
By Thursday, she noticed the infection seemed to be spreading, and since these sorts of things can sometimes lead to amputations, we thought it best to see a doctor. So off to Lakeshore General we went.
When we got there, I dropped her off and then looked for a parking spot in the overcrowded parking lot, which I was fortunate I had enough money to pay for.
Once that was done, I went to the overflowing waiting room, where my wife informed me that some people there had been waiting for 12 hours or longer, and were still in the waiting room. Since I know that there can be a wait of several hours even after they finally sit you in an examination room, I knew things were bad.
But the icing on the cake was when we went to see the admissions nurse, and when we said we wanted to see a doctor, the first thing to come out of her mouth was, "Are you sure? The wait is over 10 hours."
Luckily, when we went to see the triage nurse (who also asked if we were sure about wanting to see a doctor), we agreed to just go home and wait, and she wound up getting better.
I never before had the experience of seeing someone in an ER waiting room being asked to confirm that they wanted health care. I thought only Windows did something so annoying.
Thus, Windows health care has been born. It causes users to experience slowdowns, asks them to confirm their choices that they just asked for, is badly affected by viruses, costs a lot more than advertised (hospital parking in the area ranges from $8.00 to $15.50 for three hours, and ambulance rides cost over $150.00), and does not do what it sets out to do. And to top it all off, they have a blue room, where bad news is given (supposedly, blue has been tested and proven to subconsciously help make grief easier), which I guess is the health care equivalent of the "blue screen of death".
Although taxes in Quebec are the highest in North America, the system does not work. Poor diagnoses are common, our doctors and nurses are constantly defecting to the USA, and many people can no longer afford "free" health care, due to the combined effects of the tax burdens, parking fees, and ambulance charges, not to mention the cost of prescription medications, which are cheaper than in America, but mostly generic substitutes.
So for those of you in America who believe that Canadian-style health care is the way to go, all I can say is...
Are you sure?
This article has been viewed 17400 times in the last 6 years
chiamattt: 9th Dec 2007 - 21:44 GMT
Dude, I'm sorry, but to the reason health care in Quebec is so bad isn't because the "Canadian health care system" doesn't work, its because the province has spent a gross amount of money on 'culture preservation' and other bullshit like, for instance, separatism and bill 101.
It's like saying the roads in Canada are terrible because roads in Quebec are terrible. Again, the reason roads in Quebec are so bad is because they diverted so much money into keeping the French language alive, promoting separatism, blah blah blah.
EvilGentleman: 10th Dec 2007 - 08:39 GMT
You could be right, chiamattt. But just for fun, can you tell me what province has a health care system working as it should? From what I understand, these problems are nationwide.
Although I must admit, Quebec does waste more money than most. That's why we're burdened with the highest tax bills in North America.
Elicar: 10th Dec 2007 - 11:44 GMT
In a morbid way, it's nice to hear EvilG rant again, if ya know what I mean!
EvilG, In Ontario, we pay a health care premium. I am not sure about the amount now as tax time is better forgotten but I believe the max is $800.00 per household. It irritates me that I have to pay the same amount as Mr. Joe Blow who has 10 young kids and who is using the health care system on a regular basis. I have only I, me, myself in my household.
I try to go for my physical every year. That's all I use the health care system for on a regular basis. I did have an elective procedure June last yea where I was required for an overnight stay. I have no words but praise to the wonderful people of North York Gen. My doctor was wonderful. He visited me twice in my overnight stay. The nurses were wonderful (especially the night nurse; the morning nurse was stressed out already). The only irritant was the admitting clerk who tried to book me to the wards when she had an order to put me in a private room. She was worried that my health coverage at work did not cover provate rooms.
She was right. But I figured, I was there only for an overnight stay, I can splurge.
Ugh! I thought I stayed at the Royal York.
But that was my choice. I could have slept for one night in the ward and it is free.
The system is not perfect, but hospitals in Ontario have found ways around in. Most hospitals like Princess Margaret and Sick Kids conduct lottery every year and other activities to raise funds. I seem to have seen advertising of similar activities in the Montreal channels I have on Expressvu.
Going back to the $800.00 extra that I have to fork out every year... Does it really irritate me? Yes, it does, but it saves me from paying a very high monthly premium for medical insurance. And if it helps pay for the medical needs of others, at least I am helping a good cause. It is a forced giving back to the community.
EvilGentleman: 10th Dec 2007 - 15:33 GMT
Elicar, I am glad you had a good experience. I know my mother in Ottawa has not been as fortunate as you, but maybe she is an unfortunate exception.
She has found OHIP coverage to so time-consuming, incomplete and full of hidden fees, that she now prefers to do most of her health care on her own, using herbal remedies and other similar concepts.
I personally do not believe that this form of medicine is as effective as she thinks it is, but I know she has few other options, so I leave her be. I wish I could afford to buy her better care, but I cannot.
And even here in Montreal, the actual professionals we encounter are usually very good, caring and thorough... if you can get through the gauntlet required to see them.
Unfortunately, they are horribly overworked. One nurse that helped take care of my wife last year was doing her best, very cheerful and just a wonderful human being. But when I asked her if she was having a rough shift, she said she was getting a lot of abuse from other patients for being too slow, even though she was 14 hours into an overloaded double shift.
The med school interns have it even worse. They often say they "live" at the hospital, they spend so much time there. I have heard the same comment at Montreal General Hospital, and at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.
I am sure there are cases where things still work as they should, but it is becoming more and more uncommon. We need to wake up before things get worse. People are starting to die because of budget cutbacks.
And morbid? Geez, thanks... I think. :-P
jack: 11th Dec 2007 - 18:57 GMT
sorry about the health care problem there, i am on medicare now but all my working years i paid over $400 a month for my health plan, it was the best, when i had open heart surgery i paid nothing, had a private nurse at N Y Presbyterian and i roomed with a fellow, he told me about his experiences in germany during the war, he was one of Shindler's workers, the stories were unbelievable, the german officer (played by fienes) was real and he saw him several times. he said he was scary, he eventually came to america and joined the navy and saw the world. a great man and a great stay at the hospital, we in america take everything for granted, political parties stretch the truth for their own purposes, they look for change, even if it is idiotic, we have always lived under the free enterprize system, our hospitals are the best if you have coverage, and even if you don't. we hate the forest we live in, yet others outside see it as beautiful. politicians have no desire to save tax money they just increase taxes, teens are inundated with violence since childhood with games and music and then they kill and we say what is this world coming to, a culture of death has permeated this country since 1972, and yet this is still the greatest country in the world. we live in a free society lets not change something if it works, as long as people can go to pray, speak out against politicians, write letters of protests and simply live out their lives in relative peace, then this place called America is a haven of life of a country, lets remember our soldiers because at Christmas time they are lonely and we are free, Happy Hanukah, a Blessed Christmas, God bless us everyone.
EvilGentleman: 12th Dec 2007 - 06:22 GMT
Interesting you should mention one of the men who was saved by working for Oskar Schindler. One of my closest friends here is the son of a Schindler Jew, is proud of his father, and is eternally grateful to Oskar Schindler.
He works as a journalist here in Montreal, and knows many of the same people in the Arctic that I do. Small world, isn't it, jack?
I wonder if anyone has attempted to keep tabs on the whereabouts of the Schindler Jews and their descendants. It must be amazing, to see the full scope of that man's legacy.
Mr. Spielberg, if you read this, how about it? It would be an interesting project, would it not?
Captain Obvious: 5th Jul 2008 - 15:00 GMT
What really grates about Quebec's degenerate infrastructure, is that they have not only incredibly high taxes, but they *also* have incredibly high subsidies from all the more productive provinces, BOTH.
To have billions poured into a cesspit of porkbarelling and political quagmire, AND to have the result be worse infrastructure than all other big provinces ( Atlantic Canada's been screwed in many more ways than Quebec ), is unjustifiable and shameless.
I don't mind Quebec protecting Francais, but there's a difference between protecting Francais and attacking English.
Beating on your wife doesn't make you a bigger man.
Beating on minorities doesn't make majority stronger or greater.
Remember when the language cops set about stomping some Jewish family because they had Hebrew as the primary language on a gravestone?
THAT kind of abuse.
What's comically stupid about it all, is that the same Obliteration Of Diversity abuse is normal not only in Quebec, but throughout the entire world...
It's like everyone was taught in school to be insecure, and to beat on "others" in order to make themselves feel more valid, or more strong, or something.
I don't think anyone's got the guts, or the honesty, to *value* others' worth, because I don't see that action happening.
Fine, though, since the serfdom that humanity had, humanity is making again, with the rights removal for the Great God Authority, yes?
Quebec hasn't had as much place in YRO as has the Canadian Government, with its extraction of rights for corporate benefit...
I wish things worked right in Quebec, there'd be a lot of cultural wealth to grow & share...
sick and tired: 30th Nov 2008 - 14:32 GMT
I personally am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am critically ill and i cannot find one doctor in Montreal to help me. I'm tired of all the racism and language issues as well. The free health care is the reason i stayed here, but, at this point, there is no health care.
thenonconformer: 18th May 2009 - 17:41 GMT
I do not agree.. I found that the Health care is one of the best in Canada..
Gertrude: 28th May 2009 - 14:23 GMT
Okay, some of you went way off topic, but anyway....
I have lived in four different provinces. I now live in Quebec, and can not find a doctor. I had one, but moved out of the neighbourhood and had to give her up because she was in a CLSC (community clinic). That was five years ago. I now have files scattered around Montreal, depending on where I could get an appointment. I have not had a yearly checkup in the five years, not a pap smear, nothing. Unfortunately, I have some major health problems that should be monitored regularly. So now I'm opting to just go to the same clinic, and hope I can see the same doctor - at least they'll have my file.
In comparison to other provinces, this is appauling. Wait times are longer here, but it's simply more difficult to find a new doctor. Other provinces have systems to find one, Quebec doesn't, if there are any. In addition, the actual care seems to be more compassionate and not so rushed in other provinces.
As for the quality of health care in Canada? In general, we are very lucky, but I personally don't think it should be left in the hands of the provinces. When it was Federal, it was the best in the world.
Froggy: 16th Apr 2010 - 14:56 GMT
Oh please - I am as French Quebecois as they come and I too have trouble finding good medical help - by the logic of some of you I should be getting the best health care because I am french and Quebec seems to only be "racist/anti Anglo". Maybe one of you can tell me why my Anglo Quebec friends have doctors and never have a problem getting care. I have lived in two other provinces and I had the same problem (must be because they were anti french Quebecois, correct?) This is a nation wide problem. I use to think universal health care was wonderful, but I am starting to change my views. I think everyone should get help, but apparently you need to be a famous figure (like a politician) or very rich - the rest of us can apparently eat cake and die.
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