Wednesday, November 07, 2007

'Loony' Health Tourism

Despite Canada's "free" health care--paid for by their very high taxes--many Canadians have become health care tourists to the private market USA because of Canada's notoriously long waiting times for doctors and facilities plus a lack of advanced medical technologies.

And now, thanks to the falling dollar and the higher valued Canadian dollar (loony as it is referred to there) American health care for Canadians has suddenly become 30% cheaper. Even though Canadians have to pay for it out of pocket, it is still a bargain. Some simple numbers from Dr. Albert Schumacher, past president of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) reveal the high price of Canada's "free" health care.
This province just doesn't have the medical staff or the resources to provide the same level of care as the U.S. Essex County, where Schumacher practises, with a population of 400,000, until recently had only two CT scanners and one MRI machine. They just got a second MRI. Across the border in Port Huron, Mich., population 12,000, they had four MRI machines 10 years ago, Schumacher says.

Furthermore, even with a new medical school opening in Ontario the medical future there is not promising:
He points out that despite the new satellite medical school in Windsor, the 2,400 doctors that will be enrolled starting in 2010 will still only give the country 80% of self-sufficiency for doctors. "The simple math is for every five of me practising here, Western Europe has six and we are only training four to replace us, so the crisis gets worse on a daily basis," he says. The OMA estimates this province is short more than 2,000 physicians -- all just numbers and statistics for politicians, perhaps. But for Joanne Thompson and her sister, these figures add up to one thing: Prolonged suffering.

Hey, now just who or what is loony; who or what has a more solid currency? And most importantly, what about the health care? Hillary and Michael Moore, living here, have one answer. The Canadian Ms. Thompson, referred to in the link above, who would have had to wait up to five months for an MRI in Canada but was able to get one the next day in the privatized health care USA, certainly has another.


Australia: NSW government employs drones instead of doctors and nurses

New South Wales Health Minister Reba Meagher rejects claims the clean-up of Royal North Shore Hospital occurred specifically to coincide with a parliamentary inquiry into its performance. RNSH has enjoyed a major spruce-up, with a huge team of cleaners employed to do the job.

The Opposition has been critical of the timing but Health Minister Reba Meagher says she's just trying to improve the hospital. "The concerns about cleaning were raised directly by the nurses to the chief executive and the chief executive has responded to those claims," she said. Royal North Shore has been under siege of late, with patients left to miscarry in emergency and cases of serious misdiagnosis.

Meanwhile, it's claimed 250 nurses could be employed with the money spent on 159 health bureaucrats who are being paid even though they don't have a position. Almost half have had their role made redundant. New South Wales Treasurer Michael Costa has told 2GB's Ray Hadley there is a deadline for these people to find work within the public service. "They're in a different category because they tend to be not highly paid people," he said. "They're given an oppotunity - 12 months - to find an alternate employment opportunity within the public sector. If they fail to find they are given termination and they've got 12 months to get out of the system."


An earlier version of the above article included the following:

The state government has been forced to defend the cost of keeping redundant health workers on the payroll on the same day the inquiry into Royal North Shore Hospital begins. Around $15 million is being spent on health bureaucrats who are without a permanent position but the government insists the workers are not sitting around doing nothing. Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell says the union-secured deal speaks volumes about the government. "The $45 million a year being paid to 600 people to sit around and do nothing would be better spent employing more teachers, nurses and police."

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