Universal Health Care: The Canadian Context
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“The primary objective of Canadian health care policy is to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers. (“Canada Health Act, Section 3”. Government of Canada. 1984-04-01)
This is by no means an academic paper, a critique or in depth analysis of our universal health care system. I provide no intricate details of the workings and shortcomings of universal health care, which include threats by the existing federal conservative government to slash spending on health care and move towards a privatized system, long waiting lists for elective surgery, frustrations of individuals waiting for surgery who have the means to pay for health services, overcrowding in emergency rooms, overworked and shortage of physicians, particularly in remote areas, whereby many individuals in this province do not have a family doctor, overworked and underpaid nurses and health care staff, the dire situation for new immigrants and other marginalized groups who live in remote areas and cannot access appropriate health care. I acknowledge the problems and I see the need for change in our universal health care which is not a free service but one that is paid for by tax payers and the government.
I am relaying my personal experience as a Canadian living in the province of Québec accessing what we refer to as “l’assurance-maladie” with the founder of socialized medicine in la belle province being Claude Castonguay. Canada, in its entirety, has Tommy Douglas as the founder of universal health care. Because of universal health care my wife received superior health care services and we now have a healthy child without having to worry about mortgaging our home or spending all of our savings to pay for her prenatal, natal and postnatal care. There was no invoice in the mail. Our experience with universal health care has been nothing short of what I consider to be superior professional health care services.
We have a close friend who is living with HIV and her experiences with the universal health care system, l’assurance maladie, has also been positive. On a regular basis she receives rapid diagnosis and treatment intervention. When she is referred to a specialist there is usually no wait time and she receives treatment promptly. In the early days when there were few or no medications to treat the HIV virus her doctor was still available, sometimes at midnight,as he gave her his telephone number at home for emergencies. She recounted a time when her doctor called all the hospitals in this city on a week-end (technically his days off) trying to find her during an emergency. He met with her in his office, sometimes at 10:00 p:m to reassure and support her when she was initially diagnosed. Other than ourselves, he was her only support for years.
Mistakes are made, it is not a perfect system, as universal health care is threatened with a two tiered system which would erode universal health care (a two tiered system which does exist to an extent already). Erosion of our universal health care system would leave those who are already vulnerable with less effective services and longer waiting times for basic health care. This would also place individuals and families who are not otherwise, in precarious situations. Families like mine.
To be able to afford to live without having medical bills, insurance concerns, with guaranteed access to medication, is an essential service we cannot live without. From an individual Canadian perspective I say to our federal government – hands off our socialized medical system.