Archive for the ‘Canadian Health Care’ Category

Canadian Researcher Wants Dying Sent Home to Free Up Hospitals

From UPI, May 20, 2009:

As a way to help free up hospital beds, a Canadian researcher suggests people should be encouraged to die at home rather than in a hospital.

University of Alberta researcher Donna Wilson says that there’s been a dramatic change in the location of death of Canadians. Up until 1994, about 80 percent died in a hospital, but that number has dropped to 61 percent.

Wilson says she would like to see the number drop further to 40 percent as baby boomers age because this could reduce wait lists and free up hospital beds for those who need life-saving treatment or surgery.

It’s also a much more dignified death for a family member, Wilson says.

Wilson calculated that in the next 20 years the number of people dying could double and if death rates in hospital stay at 80 percent it means a potential tie-up of every single bed in Canada for three days of the year — because each person takes up a bed for an average of 10 days.

Hard Questions About “Universal Care” in Canada

From the Recrod, August 9, 2007:

The story in The Record this week about a Walkerton-area woman’s desperate attempt to overcome the lung cancer that threatened her cannot help but evoke sympathy and understanding.

Catherine Cooke, 49, is spending $41,000 to go to a private hospital in India. For many Canadians, the thought that a patient in this country feels she must travel to a Third World country for treatment will come as a shock. Canadians expect their government health plans to cover their medical expenses. Cooke is paying this bill by using an inheritance from her mother.

Cooke was surprised at what she has learned about the level of service available to her in Ontario. As her husband, Dave Cooke, explained, she was told she had two months to live, and it took those two months for her just to get a biopsy and appointment with a cancer specialist in Owen Sound.

That specialist did not express much hope but offered to set up an appointment with an oncologist in London, Ont., two weeks later.


These cases raise troubling questions. Why couldn’t the Canadian medical system treat these two patients in a timely manner? Is the world such a global community now that treatment in foreign countries will become routine? How can Canada’s universal health programs adjust to this new world? Can the Canadian medical system be described as “universal” when patients feel the need to go to private hospitals, despite the cost?

Read the rest.

Flying to India for Cancer Treatment

From the Record, September 2007:

A few weeks ago, Walkerton-area beef farmer Dave Cooke was intense, almost angry, and rarely laughed.

His 49-year-old wife, Catherine, was in India getting chemotherapy for advanced lung cancer. She travelled overseas because doctors here said she would not likely survive, and the wait to see specialists was long.

Today, Dave is relaxed and laughs often. Catherine is home after five months in India and clear of cancer symptoms.

The couple figure Catherine’s trip and treatment cost them $60,000 but Dave is almost floating with relief and joy. He beams in Catherine’s presence, moving close to his wife for a fond touch.

“We’re a great team,” Catherine says.

Catherine has praise for another team as well — the doctors and nurses who treated her at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, India.

“They were some of the most incredible doctors,” she said.

The Cookes learned about Surgical Tourism Canada, the Apollo group hospitals and health care available in India through television and Internet research.

There were no promises of a miracle cure in India. Catherine was told she had a 40 per cent chance of living for a year.

“I thought ‘Am I a dumb blond?’ ” she recalls. “I came halfway around the world for a 40-per-cent chance?” She wondered briefly if she was “a sucker” by signing up for out-of-country treatment.

But doctors in India were willing to try a different formula of chemotherapy than Ontario doctors advocated. They used positron emission tomography imaging to track the cancer and assess treatment — a technology Catherine was told she didn’t qualify for at home.

Read the rest.

To Avoid Year Long Wait, Canadian Patient Flies to India for Hip Resurfacing

From the National Post, October 26, 2007:

Jeff Dolinsky, a dentist in Golden, B.C., travelled to India in the spring — and he didn’t go to sightsee, meditate or contort his body in front of a yoga master. Dolinsky’s goal was more prosaic — hip surgery.

When Mr. Dolinsky went under the knife in a hospital in Chennai (formerly Madras), he felt reasonably confident he had made the right decision.

After all, six other residents from the Rocky Mountain town of Golden also had undergone successful hip surgery in the same hospital with the same physician during the previous three years.

The patients from Golden are among the small but slowly growing number of Canadians flying to foreign countries for treatment — a for-profit phenomenon known as medical tourism.

Frustration over the long list of 875,000 Canadians awaiting for surgery and other procedures is what is driving people to “outsource” their treatment overseas.

Mr. Dolinsky, 48, had spent many months in severe pain from osteoarthritis. He sought treatment and was told that hip resurfacing — a less invasive alternative to hip replacement surgery — was his best option. He also was told he might have to wait a year if he wanted the procedure performed in B.C.

Read the rest.

Patient Wait Times Cost Canada $15 Billion a Year

From CTV, January 15, 2008:

It cost Canada’s economy $14.8 billion in 2007 to have patients waiting longer than needed for medical procedures, estimates a new analysis commissioned for the Canadian Medical Association.

The analysis, conducted by The Centre for Spatial Economics, focused on just four key medical procedures:

  • Total joint replacement surgery,
  • Cataract surgery,
  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans

It found that having patients wait for these procedures cost federal and provincial government revenues a combined $4.4 billion in 2007.

The analysis focused on the costs of “excess waits” — that is: the cost of waiting for treatment beyond maximum recommended wait times as assessed by the Wait Time Alliance for Timely Access to Health Care.

The study found that “excess waits” rob the economy of workers — both the patients and their caregivers. They also lead to increased costs on the health care system, as patients need extra appointments, tests and medication. And they cost governments through disability pensions and welfare costs, as well as in lost tax revenue.

Read the rest.

Fed Up Canadians Choose Surgery Overseas

From CTV, April 18, 2007:

Governments across Canada say they are working to bring down wait time for various surgeries and medical procedures. Some patients are getting tired of waiting and are choosing what is a growing trend: getting their operations performed in exotic locations like India.

CTV News medical correspondent Avis Favaro followed one man, Jeff Clarke, who did just that.

Clarke, 34, lived with severe chronic back pain, likely caused by work injuries. He found no one in the Canadian health care system able or willing to ease his suffering.

“I’ve seen three to four surgeons over almost three years,” he told Favaro. “Each time, I’ve waited a year to see these surgeons and once I did see them, they had nothing to offer. Nothing at all.”

He decided to take action after seeing a television ad offering surgery in a matter of weeks at a hospital in India. The ad was for a company appropriately called Surgical Tourism Canada, a Vancouver-based company founded in July 2005.

Read the rest.

Doctor Advises Patient to Fly to Italy for Cancer Treatment

From CTV, July 1, 2005:

For Mississauga, Ont. resident Mario Codispoti, each moment with his family is more precious than ever. Five years ago, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer death in this country.

This January, Codispoti’s doctor told him his only hope for extending life was to be treated with the drug Erbitux, which has been proven to slow tumour growth in some patients.

Trouble is, Erbitux hasn’t been approved yet for use in Canada.

It’s been available for colorectal cancer patients in the U.S. and the E.U. for a year, and is showing encouraging results. Due to Canada’s slow drug approval process, though, it’s stuck in a backlog here. So Codispoti’s doctor advised him to seek treatment in Italy, his country of birth.

Codispoti has just returned from his latest Erbitux treatment session there. He and his wife Antonia are outraged that he had to travel so far to get a drug he desperately needs, after living in Canada and paying into Canada’s health care system for four decades.

“It’s unbelievable; unbelievable that I had to go back,” says Codispoti.

Read the rest.

Canadian’s Access to Drugs Blocked by Goverment Policy

From the Fraser Institute, April 2, 2008:

Canadian patients are having difficulty obtaining new medicines as a result of lengthy delays by the federal government to approve new prescription drugs and the refusal of provincial drug plans to pay for the new medicines, says a new study by independent research organization the Fraser Institute.

“Health Canada takes up to a year to approve new medicines as safe and effective. And while private insurance plans will immediately cover those medicines, the provinces can take up to another year to decide if they will pay for the same drugs,” said Brett Skinner, Fraser Institute Director of Health, Pharmaceutical and Insurance Policy Research and author of Access Delayed, Access Denied: Waiting For New Medicines in Canada.

“That additional one year delay keeps these new medicines out of reach for the one-third of Canadians who rely on provincial drug plans.”

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Excruciating Wait Times

From the Globe and Mail, May 9, 2009:

It’s good that some patients will have a more timely diagnosis for breast cancer, unfortunately this doesn’t address the wait times for treatment.

I went from a suspicious mammogram to a mastectomy in six weeks, which is very reasonable. According to Health Canada, chemotherapy should begin as soon as possible after your operation, usually within four to six weeks. I waited 10 weeks with no information from the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency on wait times or where I was on the list; I finally began chemo in Saskatoon 12 weeks after surgery.

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Government Health Care Only Looks Good on Film

From USA Today, July 2, 2007:

Just ask Sheila Nunn of Kitchener, Ontario, who was told by her doctor that she urgently needed a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam to check for a brain lesion. Faced with a three-month wait to have the procedure performed locally, she traveled to Michigan and paid $1,100 out of pocket for it.

Or contact Michelle Wakelin of the U.K. who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When her local health trust refused to pay for treatment, she was forced to turn to her private insurance for coverage. Fortunately, her cancer is in remission.

In the U.K., too often cost-cutting comes before patients: The National Health Service recently imposed a threshold of about $60,000 for an added year of life provided by a treatment. Further, cancer medicines and treatments that are readily accessible in Scotland are frequently denied coverage in England and Wales.

In Canada, despite a surge in spending during 2006 that represented a 5.9% increase over 2005 expenditures, a recent Frasier Institute report indicates that wait times for patients are at an all-time high. On average, Canadians wait nearly 18 weeks from general practitioners’ referrals to treatment by a specialist, more than eight weeks for MRIs, four weeks for CT scans or ultrasounds, and four or more months for “elective” surgeries.

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