Last Friday, I was sitting in the hospital sitting area, waiting to be called to get some tests done. While waiting, I saw a sign that read, “Due to a high volume of patients with scheduled appointments, the wait time is 30 minutes to 1 hour. We are extremely short-staffed. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.” Usually, I’d be OK with this because Canadians — including myself — have become accustomed to delays in the healthcare system. This time, however, I was beyond annoyed. Not only did I have an appointment and had to take time off of my day to make this appointment, but I was also asked to drink a litre of water before my appointment, which meant my bladder was on the verge of exploding inside me. To keep my mind occupied, I started thinking about this so-called free healthcare and everything wrong with the word free in this country.
You may be thinking to yourself, “But Hazar. Think of all the other countries that have it worse. You should be grateful you got an appointment in a short period.” Y’all, I’m so sick of thinking of other countries that have it worse! So, what? Does that mean we have to accept what we have? Does it mean we must be complacent when we all know our healthcare could be better?! Besides, I don’t have to think about other countries. I could think about Quebec and how people are more likely to die waiting in a hospital emergency room than seeing a doctor. It’s true; look up Quebec’s track record regarding its free healthcare services. It’s embarrassing, really. Regardless, WE can still discuss and address the significant gaps in our healthcare system. So, let’s dive in, shall we?
Cancel the word FREE
First, it’s important to note that the provincial government manages healthcare, not the federal one. So if you’re looking at our dear Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, wondering why he hasn’t fixed our healthcare, it’s because he doesn’t give a f*ck. OK, maybe he gives a f*ck a little bit, but the point is he can’t do much. That said, the federal government indeed budgets for and distributes funding exclusively for healthcare to provincial governments based on their financial needs. However, once the financing leaves the federal’s hands, the province can redistribute that funding to other social services however they please. Ontario’s government seems to take that money and flush it down the toilet. I don’t know. I’m just speculating because the healthcare system has been shit for almost four decades. What they should be flushing down a toilet is their massive toilet-clogging shit of a healthcare program.
Second, let’s stop calling it free healthcare. It’s not free. Nothing in this life is free. I’m done with the word free. Nowadays, you pay for everything in this world, including the air you breathe (Carbon Tax). Whether employed or not, you contribute to the province’s healthcare system. Those who are unemployed typically get a taxable social welfare cheque from the government because it is considered income, just like the paycheque one would receive from their employer. That tax contributes to social programs — including healthcare — from which we collectively benefit. This means almost everyone living in Canada is paying for the free public services offered by our governments.
Universal healthcare is by far the most popular public service offered in Canada. There are many advantages to this so-called free healthcare. For one, you don’t have to budget for healthcare in Canada. You can wake up with a dull headache, walk to the nearest walk-in clinic, and see a doctor without pulling out your wallet. It’s really that simple (except in Quebec — this post excludes Quebec because healthcare is a shitshow in that province and beyond repair). Second, we don’t have to worry about looking for a specialist. Our general practitioner (GP) sends a referral to the healthcare administration, and this administration then schedules our appointments in a priority sequence. No worries and no headaches when financing or planning our healthcare needs. Sounds dreamy, right? So, where does the problem lie? It lies within the timeframe all of this takes place.
Pay up or die waiting
If you ask a dying person what they wished they had more of, they will say time. They will wish they had more time to do whatever they wished they had done when they had the time. Nothing is more valuable and expensive to a human being than time, even if they’re too young or stupid to know. At some point, they’ll realize it — probably when they’ve run out of time and it’s too late. If you can exchange money for more time, you will do it. I certainly would, and I would use that extra time to make up for all the dumb mistakes I made in the past that caused me to waste my time in the first place. If you look at the free healthcare we pay for and contrast it with the time you spend waiting to leverage this healthcare, will you think the cost of waiting justifies this so-called free service? Time is incredibly passive and subtle that none of us truly stop to ask ourselves this question when we’re sitting and waiting eight to ten hours in an emergency room at a hospital to be seen by a doctor. Time doesn’t need physical currency or a plastic card to be spent. It dissipates without you realizing it, like a slowly dripping water faucet. Tick, tock, tick, tock… We spend more time waiting to be seen by a healthcare provider than we actually use the service. I have come up with a short list as to why.
- Financial mismanagement: We vote in and trust the provincial government to responsibly manage the funding we receive — including our tax money — to establish a well-organized, functioning healthcare system that evolves and adapts to the growing population. Unfortunately, our government consists of unqualified, inexperienced and selfish individuals who prioritize their needs before that of the people or are too dumb to do anything meaningful during their term in office. This was true long before the Ford administration took office. The healthcare system collapsing during the pandemic lockdowns is the main reason why it’s more obvious today.
- Shortage of staff: There needs to be more nurses and doctors to make up for the growing population in major metropolitan cities. Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and the surrounding areas have the worst wait times in hospitals and clinics. In Montreal, one has to call a walk-in clinic and book an appointment for the day! How is that even a walk-in?
- Top-heavy staffing: The bulk of the funding for healthcare is spent on overpaid healthcare managers and administration fees. Believe it or not, becoming a doctor in this country doesn’t make you any richer than becoming a… oh, I don’t know… a Nuclear Security Officer. In fact, you’re more likely to retire a millionaire if you were a Nuclear Security Officer or a Teacher, thanks to their strong unions, which brings me to my next point.
- International competition: Those who study medicine in Canada are poached by countries such as the United States, who will pay them top dollar. You might think, “Well, what about being a doctor for the good of the people?” OK, let’s all get off our virtue-signalling high horse. No one is in it to become a philanthropist. Healthcare providers must provide for themselves first, just like everybody else. THEN, they consider charitable and philanthropic work on the side. If I’m a doctor making 120,000 CAD with a student loan of 200k+ CAD, and Murica calls me up and says, “We’re willing to relocate you and offer you a full-time permanent position with a base salary of 250k USD, with options,” what do you think my immediate response would be (before I consider all the other factors of living in the States, of course)?
- Education: People don’t know where to go or what to look for when they experience symptoms. There needs to be a proper way of educating the public on where to go and what to do if they have a cough, a headache, stomach pain, etc.
- Diversified healthcare system: When we feel ill — especially outside of working hours — we immediately book it to the nearest hospital. Not many people have the patience to book an appointment with their GP or trust that a walk-in clinic doctor would understand what they’re going through. Furthermore, going to the hospital means you may have quicker access to further testing, whereas your GP or a walk-in clinic must submit a referral, and it could be weeks before a specialist sees you for testing. So many people think waiting 12 hours in a hospital is worth it to avoid waiting any longer. We don’t have options to visit alternative healthcare facilities such as urgent care, after-hours clinics, nurse practitioner clinics, etc. And if we do, they’re few and far between, or we don’t know any better because we’re not educated on the matter.
- The worry-about-everything folks: Listen, I’m not talking about hypochondriacs. Hypochondriasis is a REAL illness anxiety disorder, and people with this disorder need the proper medical treatment. One of the types of people who do clog the healthcare system is those who feel the need to see a doctor for every single little thing they think is wrong with them. However, this is NOT their fault, which is why it’s last on my list. I address the primary reason in my previous two points: we don’t have a diverse enough healthcare system to accommodate different levels of medical needs, and we’re not educated on how to evaluate our symptoms.
There are many more gaps in our healthcare system, but these are the most flagrant ones. However, all these issues have a solution. It comes down to whether or not the government is qualified, able and prepared to make the necessary changes to support its people. If you’re still reading, you likely want to know what I propose.
Two-tiered healthcare is taboo
Many people in Canada lose their minds when the words two-tier and healthcare come together. In 2019, the federal Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) campaigned against a two-tier healthcare system, knowing that healthcare has nothing to do with federal policy and is mostly irrelevant in a federal election. But they love to troll and move people with hyperbolic statements of how the Conservative Party of Canada and its derivatives are after your healthcare system. First of all, no, they’re not. Second, I’m not saying the CPC is a saint. I digress. My point is that we’ve tried to hold onto this broken, paid free healthcare for so long, and nothing is working. So, why not, at least, be open to the idea of splitting healthcare into two: paid services vs services paid through our taxes that appear free in real-time? I’m not calling it free healthcare anymore. You get the point by now that it’s not free healthcare. If correctly executed, a two-tier healthcare system should alleviate the stress on our public healthcare, emphasizing the word should. It would look something like this:
- Shorter wait time: Those who can afford it will pay and leave room in the public healthcare system for those who cannot pay for treatment.
- Insurance: Employed people will likely have coverage for private healthcare services the same way they have coverage for paramedical and dental services, and so in some twisted way, it will still be free (knowing that you’re paying for this insurance out of your paycheck).
- Tax reduction: If the government is competent, they’ll cut our tax contribution. This is highly unlikely, but at least our taxes could support our public healthcare system if fewer people were waiting to be seen.
- More competitive salaries: One of the famous Liberal arguments is that we’d lose top talent to private healthcare if we tried this. Well, virtue-signalling Liberal Linda, we’re already losing top talent to private healthcare outside this country. Maybe the government could stop insulting our healthcare providers and provide them with better salaries.
- Diversifying our healthcare: If we allow for a two-tier system, we may even be able to cut some of the red tapes and allow for Nurse Practitioners to open up walk-in clinics the same way the State of California has this year (2023). Nurse Practitioners are, in fact, just as qualified as doctors to assess patients and prescribe medication. This should technically be a must in our public healthcare system too, but surprise-surprise, our government isn’t in the most robust shape to make sound decisions. The private practice may know better.
- Price and valuation: People are more likely to think twice before deciding if a price tag was attached to said decision. If you have a headache and know it’ll cost you $75 to have a doctor assess you, you may consider a Tylenol or an Advil instead and see if that helps. Free anything devalues a service or an item. Adding price to a service increases its value and helps drive up the quality of said service. Sidenote, it’s why the tipping culture in restaurants works so well. How much we’re tipping servers is a whole other Sunday Preach.
- Stir the economy: Private healthcare should not be subsidized by the government. Like any business, they should also pay tax, and as such, this tax can go to the government and increase healthcare funding. Again, assuming our government is bright enough for this kind of planning.
I can go on, but like the flaws in our healthcare system, I’m merely highlighting the top benefits of this solution. Are there risks associated with establishing a two-tiered healthcare system? ABSOLUTELY. The main risk we face is our unqualified government and its reckless spending. What are some ideas to help better our healthcare system? I’d love to hear it in the comments!