Saturday, March 20, 2010

Health Care Musings

I have worked in the Canadian health care system since 1975 and even longer if you count my unpaid hours while training to be a physiotherapist. I presently work in chronic continuing care with patients who are generally the elderly with multiple chronic medical conditions. Most of them have worked, raised families and lived productive and independent lives. I try to remember this when they are confused or unable to help themselves perform the most basic human functions. I like to listen to their stories and laugh at their jokes. I once walked into the room of a lady in her mid-nineties who was struggling to roll over in bed. Her bare legs were waving in the air above her diapered bottom. She told me,

"I feel like a hooker who is not getting paid."

I laughed and she laughed as I helped her get up. I asked her if she wanted to get into her chair and she responded,

"As long as it is not electric!"

The queen of one liners even when confused, she was likely the life of the party in her younger years.

A wheelchair covered with a sheet is stored in an alcove by the stairs. Some creative person with a sense of humour added the facial features seen in the picture above. Perhaps they were trying to intimidate Francine, our favourite in-house ghost.

Very few people leave this unit to go home. Some are too ill to move to a nursing home and will die here. But they receive compassionate and ethical medical care at the end of their lives. Which brings me to my point...

The Canadian health care system is not perfect, nor does it cover everything. Primary health care (family doctors) and hospitalization costs are covered but we pay for dental care, optometry, prescriptions (except for people over 65 years old), medical equipment and other extended health benefits. We have wait lists for non-urgent procedures such as joint replacements and other elective surgery. We do not euthanize the sick and elderly. Some areas of the country are under-serviced, especially more remote and sparsely populated communities. But we do not have to worry about receiving hospital bills which would bankrupt a family. And people can opt out of the system as it is not compulsory to have a health card.

I do not understand the strong resistance to universal health care in America. I have read outrageous claims on forwarded emails and some blogs which have made me angry, particularly those which spread exaggerations and lies about Canada's health care system. Many evangelical religious organizations in particular are zealous in resisting both Obama and his reforms. I wonder how many churches pay insurance and hospital bills for members (or non-members) who are in need? The Old Order Mennonites in Canada opt out of our health care system but their community covers costs when they are hospitalized.

Change is not easy and paradigm shifts can be very stressful. Health care reform is a big undertaking for any government. It will take a creative and unified effort to make a new system work well. And I don't want to receive hate-filled email forwards or see caricatures of Obama looking like Hitler or a monkey, especially from people who call themselves christians.

First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all,
and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God.
This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Savior.
1 Timothy 2:1-3


  1. Amen! I can't stand listening to that garbage coming from the U.S., bashing our health care system and whatnot.

  2. Your workmate has a funny sense of humour, some one might think that there is a ghost.

  3. I think it has less to do with not wanting reform than it does with those opposed wanting to see him fail Ruth. It's all politics as usual.

    The entire issue has made me so very sad. We are so in need of reform before the entire system collapses under the weight of its own making. But admitting such, and gasp!, supporting such, might make some career politicians lose an election.

  4. What an amazing post! We are so blessed to have the health care system we do. I don't understand the negativity from the Americans. I always will say that it's takes very special people to work in the health field. Especially those in chronic, long care and terminal facilities. Your patience, care, committement and love for these patients go beyond just "having a job".

  5. America (as opposed to many Americans) are still fighting the Cold War against those dreaded Commies. This is an extension of the was against socialism.

  6. Thank you Ruth for that blog. I for one will never fault our system. It has been good to us and for us. The care and respect U.Harold has received over the past 6-1/2 years while going through two major heart surgerys has been second to none. ...and I'm glad I lived in Canada with it's health system when I was raising my family.
    I have lived on both sides of the border and know the other side needs a health care makeover.

  7. Anonymous1:49 pm GMT-4

    I live in the US and am on Medicaid and am taken well care of my medical needs...

  8. Becka- Angry bashing is seldom effective in promoting change...

    Anne- There are regular ghost sightings at the hospital (not by me)

    Jayne- You, as a nurse are an insider Jayne. It is sad to see the underlying racism and hatred come to the surface in the protestors

    Cheryl- We are blessed. And I know I am not getting younger. I treat the elderly like I want to be treated some day.

    AC- Well said.

    Aunt Lois- Thanks for your comment. You know how to get the best from the system because you go in informed and asking the right questions.

    Katie- Unfortunately, many low income Americans do not qualify for Medicaide. Eligibility varies by state and there are many gaps. The whole slice of bread needs to be buttered.

  9. I believe the loudest opposition comes from those who know the least about our present system and even less about the reform bill. They are listening to the very misleading rhetoric and simply hop on the bandwagon. My own Congressman (who is a Democrat) is going go vote against the reform bill!

  10. Enjoyed visiting your blog and thank you for your comment on mine. Your one-liner friend makes me smile, and so also, you, who lives and works and smiles with the elderly. My mother is rapidly deteriorating and so this image gave me a lift. Hopefully, after today's decisions, the USA will be on its way to sorting out some of our healthcare problems.

  11. I just wish you could have been on staff when my Dad was in extended care.We need more caring individuals like you.God bless you as you continue to give loving care to those in your charge.

  12. I've always been in favor of changing the system so that people can have access to affordable health care.It would be better if you didn't have to limit your income opportunities to jobs that offer health insurance. We hear negative talk about Canadian Healthcare form right-wing Republicans-but most people know that it is exaggerated negative propoganda.

  13. I find many opposers with strong words are operating in fear and paranoia, and as some others have commented's all based in politics and not wanting to see the other side win.

    To speak out against providing something that should be a universal right for EVERYONE does not make sense to me. None of my US relatives agree with this proposed change and have nothing good to say about our system that they know very little about, while they cross the border into Mexico to buy cheaper unregulated meds. I do not understand the apprehension towards a long overdue change!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.