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Everyone is always going on and on about how lovely and wonderful and perfect the Canadian healthcare system is. However, most of the people who speak about our healthcare system have not really experienced it. All they know about it is the concept of "free" healthcare and that seems pretty appealing, I will give you that.
Now, before I start this series of write-ups let me preface them by saying that I love our healthcare system. I love not having to worry about medical bills or drowning in medical debt simply because I had to receive surgery. I loved having health insurance that paid for my medication and I don't mind having to pay for it myself now that my insurance is gone for the moment.
I love knowing that when I go to the hospital, for whatever reason, I will be taken care of (eventually) by a medical professional and I won't be handed a bill at the end. Unless, of course, I went by ambulance because then I may have to pay for that.
Despite all the things I love about Canada's medical system, it is still broken, beaten down, and behind. Despite being "free" healthcare, it is a standard of care that I'm sure many would rather pay for if it meant they would receive care before they died.
The glacial pace at which our healthcare system moves at is causing individuals to lose their lives. It is causing individuals to spend years fighting illnesses that could have been cured had they been addressed earlier. And it is causing individuals to struggle daily due to a lack of access to basic treatment.
So all that being said, let's focus on the main topic of this first part.
Healthcare in Canada doesn't work as fluidly as it does in other countries. Despite our low population relative to our country's size, we have a serious problem when it comes to access to healthcare professionals. There simply aren't enough of them to meet the needs of the people.
Some argue this is due to the aging population. Some argue that this is due to a lack of incentive to work in the Canadian healthcare system. Regardless of the cause, there never seem to be enough doctors or nurses to meet the needs of the citizens of this country.
So naturally, in order to address this problem, waitlists are created and people are placed in priority sequence due to their need. And you can be waitlisted for basically everything now.
The average wait time to get a family doctor or nurse practitioner who can recommend you for all the other treatment you need can be 3 months to 3 years depending on your region.
The average wait time to see a mental health professional can be 3-12 months, depending on your diagnosis.
The average wait time for pain clinics is 2-3 years.
The average wait time to see an obstetrician/gynaecologist is 3-12 months unless the need is pressing such as pregnancy.
The average wait time for referrals to any specialist is about 2 months but can extend to beyond a year depending on the area of speciality.
The average wait times for the following surgical procedures are as follows (in weeks):
- Plastic surgery: 25.9
- Gynecology: 18.8
- Ophthalmology: 28.5
- Otolaryngology: 22.7
- General surgery: 12.1
- Neurosurgery: 46.9
- Orthopedic surgery: 38.0
- Cardiovascular: 8.4
- Urology: 16.2
- Internal Medicine: 12.9
- Radiation Oncology: 4.1
- Medical Oncology: 3.7
And that is if you've actually made it as far as to get recommended for surgery. The battle to that point can take months, if not years.
So people are just waiting. Waiting to find a doctor that will send them to another doctor that may just send them to another doctor—it is a medical hamster wheel. Round and round you go and you never really know when you are going to get off and when you are going to find an answer.
Some people have been searching for medical solutions for years, decades even. Some people have seen their doctors die before they have found answers to their own medical problems and then they have to start all over again with a new doctor, if they can find one.
I love the Canadian healthcare system for all of its perks, but as someone who is on waitlists currently, has been on them for more than a year in the past, and will likely be on them again in the future it is a flawed system.
I don't know if the answer is more funding. I don't know if the answer is more doctors. I don't know if the answer is updated facilities or more private practices or a less socialised system. But something needs to be done. People die waiting for treatment and that shouldn't be happening in Canada.