Appreciating Canadian Health Care

Having access to timely and efficient health care is a highly important part of our lives and we take this privilege for granted at our peril. With this in mind, every developed society on earth is assessing the escalating price of health care and it is safe to comment that with costs not entirely under control and populations that are aging, many countries are struggling with massive health care bills that just keep piling up – seemingly out of control.  So let’s take a step back for a moment and consider the responsibilities that nations have towards their citizens and review the role of health care in their planning.

The importance of access for our Military Service Personnel

In my lifetime, after two world-size conflicts and several multi-regional wars – and with the massive cost in human and financial capital, only now are we beginning to understand “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”  and the toll this has taken on our service men and women, as well as their families and the civilian populations where these conflicts have raged. We have actuaries who can work out the cost to our national treasury, morticians who respectfully look after repatriated bodies and comrades who faithfully attend every “ramp ceremony” - but only recently with the benefit of medical science are we able to understand P.T.S.D. and the high cost to families victimized by that malady. Peeking through the window of this horrible post conflict trauma encourages us to reflect how veteran personnel in previous conflicts have suffered – and the urgent need to look after these returning warriors.

Currently we are witnessing a disgusting face-off between our returning veterans and the medical services establishment whereby these valiant citizens who are struggling with a serious post conflict syndrome are unable to get the physical and phsychological help they need – when they need it. This just appalls me and I don’t understand the type of mentality that will ask a young person to risk their lives for the country and be denied help when they return home.  Admittedly from the sidelines it is always difficult to know exactly what is failing in this system, but whatever is fractured had better be repaired soon or we will be hearing about more of these fine young men and women on our nightly news and it will not be pretty. My view has always been that veterans go to the head of the line when it comes to health care and social services. They should be provided with the finest health care possible – at all times and specifically when it is needed most. Anything less and we will judge the system to have failed - and as the buck stops with the Chief of Defense I expect him to lead from the front and by example.

Canada has by and large done a pretty good job providing health care for its citizens and as the delivery of these services is a provincial responsibility (within the framework of the national health care act) this varies from province to province. This is not to imply that health care is exactly the same in each province and beyond improvement, but it is fair to say that a national standard of health care does exists – and more importantly it works.  I don’t have an insider’s perspective on how cities in other provinces approach their health care delivery, but I do have an insider’s view on how the system in Kingston performs and it is pretty good.

My experiences….

Recently I had two encounters with the Kingston hospital system and both times came away awed by the professionalism of the staff and the outstanding service they offered – in a stressful environment. My first visit to K.G.H. was to have my elbow repaired after years of faithful service on the Judo mat, the soccer field and several arm wresting bouts with son Daniel and Grandson Jacob. I needed several bone fragments removing from inside the joint which were restricting the mobility of my arm -  and to do this effectively they progressively froze the entire area from my  shoulder down to the fingertips and extracted the space invaders using a micro-surgical technique. I was laying on my side in the operating theater, semi – awake while the surgeon manouvered inside my arm and at one point I remember him leaning over and gently asking “are you still there”?…I suppose meaning “are you all right?” Whereupon I instinctively quipped “where in heavens name do you think I am”? and instantly regretted it. The other time…well that’s a story for another occasion.