Tag Archives: health care

I Want to Believe

By Jason Menard

The mind is a powerful thing and sometimes it can be a barrier to belief, even when believing is something you want to do very strongly.

There are so many things out there that people want to believe in: a deity, the concept that love conquers all, magic, The Force… It’s a basic human need to believe in something, anything, that’s greater than ourselves. Continue reading

Private Care Can Cure Public Woes

By Jason Menard

Not to slaughter any sacred Canadian cows here, but perhaps it’s time to take a good, hard look at Private Health Care in this country. And there’s a good chance we’ll find that, rather than being a disease that threatens to kill off our socialized medical system, it may actually end up being part of the system’s cure.

Wow, did that ever feel good. I mean, as a good, solid Canadian, I think I was born with the same ingrained notion that our socialized health care system was the be all and end all. As dedicated Canucks, we’re subconsciously sworn to protect the system against all corporate comers. Verily, with Tommy Douglas’ visage emblazoned on our shields and with a rallying cry of “Medicare” we traditionally go charging into the fray against the oncoming tide of private interests.

Yet, while we all have our hand at the hilt, ready for battle, we have been known to take the occasional furlough into the enemy’s territory. Whether it’s someone taking a trip south of the 49 th for a replacement hip or cancer treatment, or perhaps we’ve gone to a private clinic to take a pre-natal test to determine the health of our unborn child. We happily fork over our hard-earned cash for the privilege of doing so.

Heck, even the leader of Canada’s left-leaners, Jack Layton, has availed himself of the services of a private clinic for a hernia operation. But instead of being vilified, he should be lauded by those who need the private system the most. Because when Jack headed off to the private clinic, he took himself off the waiting list and bumped everyone else up one spot.

So maybe one guy spent one less day waiting to have the agony of a hernia relieved. Maybe the trickle down effect meant that someone else got to have an operation on a Friday afternoon instead of enduring yet another weekend with that torturous bulge.

And, considering the vehement hand-wringing about wait times in our country, it’s time to lay down our swords and negotiate a truce – for the good of all.

As it stands now, hospitals are working under a system where there are funding caps for various procedures. When the quota has been met, the operating rooms are shut down, or the beds are closed, or specialists are transitioned into a lesser role because the funding and facility is not there to support their ability to perform their chosen job.

In the end, the lines get longer while the facilities remain dark, until the next quota period starts up. These underused facilities represent an underutilized resource and a lost opportunity to earn welcome ancillary funds.

The only danger private health care poses to our system is if it runs outside of the existing health care system. If it is controlled and facilities are provided and administered through the hospital, then some of the funds that are earned from the charges for private procedures can be diverted back into the public system. Not only will those who choose to pay for their services be taking themselves out of the queue for the public system, the funds their procedures generate will be able to improve the quality and level of service available to those using the public system exclusively.

This does not create a two-tier system when it comes to access. In this country, when you go to a hospital you receive the required care, regardless of whether or not you have the means to pay for anything. However, for elective procedures, or those that require advance scheduling, people who choose to elect for private services are, in fact, only paying for quicker access to the services. This does not mean that people relying on the public system will ever be denied access to a procedure – it just means they’ll have to wait their turn.

We live in a system where doctors have to restrict patients to a specified time frame, or to only one issue per billable visit. Our medical system needs an infusion of cash to help it heal. However, few of us are willing to pay more in taxes. So where does that money come from?

The private system, if administered by our existing health care providers, offers an opportunity to pump money into the public system. As long as the priority is placed on public access and the administrators can balance that mandate with the potential provided by the private care opportunity, we can reap a benefit for all. Our social medical system is sick, but if we remain steadfast in our opposition to anything even with the hint of privatization, then we have only ourselves to blame when the patient dies.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Putting the Care Back in Healthcare

By Jason Menard

If Hippocrates was alive today, he’d be greatly ailed by the state of our health care system. Of course, good luck on him for actually finding a doctor that would treat him.

Healthcare in this country has rapidly deteriorated to the point where the concept of a house call is little more than a quaint memory – akin to a Normal Rockwell painting hanging on the wall. Care and compassion have been replaced by productivity, efficiency, and billable visits.

Healthcare is extinct and in its place has risen the concept of Health Management. And we have no one but ourselves as patients to blame for this devolution of care.

We have deified our medical professionals. We have come to accept their judgments as the final authority, to be accepted without question. Our great failing is that we no longer look at doctors as humans, with their own frailties, trials, and tribulations.

Due to one person’s wish to get to their destination just a little quicker, my wife and I have been deeply immersed in all aspects of the health management system. And we have seen the best and the worst. We have seen great displays of compassion, caring, and adherence to the basic ideals that Hippocrates set out when he crafted his oath.

Yet those qualities have not been displayed by those with the letters M.D. after their name. Rather, it has fallen to practitioners of so-called alternative medicine to fill in the gaps. They, the chiropractors and physiotherapists, are the ones who now display the bedside manner so often lacking in our coolly efficient doctors. They are the ones who understand that a caring ear attuned to our frustrations is just as therapeutic as any prescription that can be written. Yet many continue to write them off as quacks and opportunists, despite the fact that they’ve made a commitment to caring for their patients.

Recently I attended a seminar presented by an insurance broker who explained that, in order to maximize profitability, doctors and other medical professionals ascribe to a five-minute window of treatment. Three minutes of face time, followed by two minutes of paper work. Many of us have walked into a doctor’s office to be greeted by signs indicating that only one issue will be dealt with per appointment. Any other concerns must be addressed in another, billable, appointment. The situation has deteriorated to the point where new doctors in the region where I live have the audacity to make potential patients apply for their services.

These doctors should feel shame! They should apply for the right to treat us! When it comes to my health and life, I should have the right to choose amongst my doctors for the one who gives the best care – not just be forced to take whatever table scraps are left, and to be thankful for it.

Doctors have a difficult job, I understand that. Especially in this region of southwestern Ontario, they are overwhelmed by work, dealing with funding cut-backs, and stressed beyond imagination.

But could part of that stress come from a lack of enjoyment in their job? There is no longer the sense of familial relations that we once shared with our doctors. The personalized care, understanding, and knowledge have been replaced with the medical equivalent of working on a factory line. It has become repetitive, productivity-driven, and – most importantly – soulless. One would hope that the majority of people were called to the medical profession because of a desire to help people – not just line their pocketbooks. So can this new age of medicine truly be fulfilling?

Louis Lasagna, the academic dean of medicine at Tufts University in 1964, penned the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath. In it he said, “I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care for the sick.”

Yet, more often than not, patients are made to feel like they are nothing more than the sum of the numbers on their health care card. We are a necessary, but unwanted, imposition upon the lives of those to whom we turn for help.

We need to change the focus back from health management to health care. We need to work with our medical professionals to petition the government for more funding to ensure that we have a system of which we can be proud. The focus has to be on quality of care, not on quantity of care. Our doctors must feel able to spend more time with a needy patient, rather than watching the seconds tick by on their watches.

Most importantly, as patients we must demand to be treated as humans, not just numbers.

The modern Hippocratic Oath ends with the phrase, “may I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.”

To experience joy, one must have a soul. Our medical system needs to find it.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Our Medical System’s in Need of a Check-Up

By Jason Menard

At least now people should be able to see the problems that lie ahead with our medical system. Ironically, it took the delisting of regular eye exams to open people’s eyes to what’s going on with our province’s medical plans. Oh well, better late than never.

Pun fully intended, the Liberal Party’s party’s platform of delisting various medical services is short-sighted, and leads out down the road to where our future generation may enjoy an even poorer quality of life than the one we now enjoy.

Worst of all, these deregulations directly impact those who may need these services the most, but can least afford it. While some of us have extended benefits plans which can make up for the shortfall, others are not so lucky. As well, these plans are getting more and more extended each day. Premiums stand to rise, ancillary fees will start to be levied, and fewer things will be covered – leaving the taxpayer with the added burden of finding funds to cover services.

But, more likely, people won’t pay – and they won’t go.

An investment in health is an investment in our future. By delisting eye exams the Provincial government is creating a scenario wherein those who must choose between food and eye care will understandably choose the former. Human nature is that people will put their money elsewhere other than spending on an eye exam. But what are the long-term costs? How many early cases of glaucoma or cataracts will go unchecked? How much more of a burden on the health care system will that be when costlier reactive medicine becomes the norm and proactive care is slowly phased out?

Chiropractic and physiotherapy care are to be delisted in the near future. I ask what’s next? I ask, how are people expected to move forward in life, when their expenses may outpace their income? How are Ontarians to become more valued members of this province? How are they to buy a house, contribute to our local economy, and fill the province’s coffers with tax dollars when all their energy is spent treading water, simply trying to make do — instead of getting ahead?

There are those who swear by chiropractic care – its treatment allowing people to stay off costly pain killers or other pharmaceuticals. But with delisting, will those who choose not to go due to the added financial burden not see their productivity drop at work? Will that not choke the economy? Will that not stifle growth? Will that not send more people to the hospital, using up those valuable — and underfunded — resources?

And what of the others who need physiotherapy to carve out a meagre level of enjoyment and mobility from their lives? They tend to be the ones who need these services the most, but can least afford it.

Where does this stop? When do the Liberal values of social responsibility stop being overwhelmed by the neo-Conservative mantra of fiscal obsession? I am a proud Canadian. However, of late, I worry that my beloved Maple Leaf is being strangled by the Red-White-and-Blue mentality. If access to universal health care is truly a Canadian ideal, should we not put a premium on its care – rather than charging a premium for essential services?

When will governments see that an initial investment in proactive, preventative medicine will end up costing far less than simply being reactionary. Wasn’t that what mom always said? Tackling a problem when it starts prevents it from becoming bigger and unmanageable?

Many rejoiced when the Provincial Liberals replaced the Eves’ Conservative, yet now we are left to wonder if we really bought a new lease on life or are simply mortgaging our future using the opposite side of the same coin? Has Liberal Red turned Conservative Blue?

We as citizens have a responsibility to our friends, family, and neighbours to make our voices heard. Inaction on our part is tantamount to tacit approval of the government’s practices. However, making our voices heard is the key. To speak without action is as worthless as an unfulfilled campaign promise, and the only currency we hold is at the ballot box.

If you are concerned about the future of your health services, don’t wait until after the fact to speak up! Call your MPP, send them an e-mail (click here to find out where they are), or write them a letter.

And when you do let them know that next election you hope your ballot will be cast in appreciation for a Party that has rediscovered its roots, and not against an organization that has lost its focus, choosing the Right way and not the right way.

Delisted eye exams or no, even our politicians will see the light if we shine it bright enough!

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved