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?

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