Health

Health Care Haggling is Bad for Your Health

If you’re tired of the haggling between health ministry bureaucrats and doctors over fee cuts and health costs, be patient and pay attention. This is more than a ritual dance about money and working conditions. And the haggling does affect you, directly. If you’ve had a harder time getting in to see your doctor in a reasonable time, if you’ve been re-scheduled again and again for an elective (albeit painful) back or hip procedure, or the family physician you have been seeing for 20 years moves away, you’re getting close to the nexus of why these interminable negotiations between the blue suits and the white coats have become so heated. All provinces are strapped by mounting healthcare costs which now consume 40 cents out of every tax dollar you pay. With Canadians enduring ever-longer wait lines for medically-necessary care, with emergency rooms and acute care beds jammed at unsustainable levels,…

More Canadians Than Ever, Wait for Health Care

As provincial premiers wrangle with the Trudeau government over their diminishing share of transfer payments for health care, Canadian patients are being increasingly forced into ever longer waiting lines for medically necessary treatment—many of them leaving the country for care they can’t get at home in what they and their physicians consider a “clinically reasonable” time. It’s a pattern that now appears to be an inherent reality of health care in Canada, one that has exacerbated tensions not only between provincial and federal politicians, but between the professionals responsible for treating patients and their increasing legions of bureaucrats and paymasters. Each year, Canada’s leading independent public policy/healthcare think tank (it accepts no government money), the BC-based Fraser Institute releases an update on the wait times faced by patients for non –emergency (but medically necessary) treatment for conditions that are still painful, possibly debilitating, and sometimes deadly. Wait your turn…

Endless Waiting Lists, Or Medical Free Trade?

Earlier this year, we wrote about the dilemma facing hundreds of thousands of Canadians forced to endure months-long waiting lists for medical care, without which, many would die. This is a devastating prospect in a country that for many decades has prided itself on having a world-class health care delivery system. But as the waiting lists have grown to over 900,000 nationally, and as the average wait times just for an initial visit with a specialist have stretched to eight weeks, there seems little immediate hope for improvement. The latest example: according to a recent investigative report in the Toronto Star, the Ontario health ministry has approved $100 million in funding to send 202 people to hospitals in Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit to receive allogeneic transplants to treat various cancer and blood disorders they can’t get treated in the province. Allogeneic transplants involve collecting stem cells from matching donors and…

Travel Smart: Plan Ahead for Your Health

There’s a lot to think about when you’re planning a trip: where to go, where to stay, and what to pack. What you may be forgetting, though, is your health. Did you get the necessary immunizations? Do you have enough prescription medications to last you the entire length of your stay? Did you buy travel health insurance? These questions and others should be an essential part of the planning process. Here are a few health issues to consider when you are planning your trip abroad. Health care coverage abroad Your provincial health plan offers limited health coverage while you are out of your home province, so you will need to check the details of your province’s health plan to find out exactly how you are covered. As a general rule, provincial plans cover you only for medically necessary services, which include health care provided in hospitals and care provided…

Contemplating Medical Tourism? Weigh Your Options Wisely

Travelling abroad to receive faster, cheaper treatment seems to be a growing trend in Canada. Approximately twenty medical tourism companies are currently operating across the country, most providing options for elective surgeries, such as knee or hip replacements, cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery, or transplants. But what makes people consider getting care abroad? They may wish to bypass long wait times, save money for elective surgeries that would not be covered by provincial health care, or even access new treatments that are not yet offered in Canada. Whatever the reason, or no matter how great the benefits, Canadians must understand the importance of doing their research and making an informed decision before considering health care abroad! Who would be providing your care? Canadian health providers are well aware of the consequences they face if they harm a patient, practise beyond the scope of their knowledge, or are negligent. They are…

What to Do If You Are Ill or Injured while Travelling Abroad

Travelling abroad can be a thrilling experience, filled with new people, unique foods, and beautiful sights. But if you find yourself facing a medical emergency in an unfamiliar area, the experience can become overwhelming or downright scary! Still, there’s no need to cancel your trip for fear of falling ill. Keep reading to learn what to do if the unexpected occurs, and find various resources should you need the extra help. Before you leave for your trip In addition to getting your vaccinations and purchasing the right travel insurance, you should always check to see if any travel health notices exist for your destination country. These notices are provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada and are updated regularly. You should also check if there are any travel reports or warnings for the area you will be travelling to. You may also want to consider registering for the…

Travelling within Canada: Your Out-of-Province Health Coverage

If you get sick while travelling within Canada, it’s generally pretty easy to receive immediate medical attention without having to foot the bill. The reason is that all of the provinces and territories, except Quebec, signed an Interprovincial Billing Agreement under which the host province agrees to cover the cost of any medically necessary service provided and subsequently bill the home province for reimbursement. That being said, there are certain differences to your coverage when you travel outside of your home province. Understanding these differences can help you avoid having to pay unnecessary expenses. What is and isn’t covered out of province? In accordance with the Canada Health Act, medically necessary health care services are typically covered when travelling within Canada. In other words, if you become ill or have an accident in another province, your hospital and physician services will likely be covered. However, additional services, such as…

Are Canadian Doctors Really Pillaging Health Care Coffers?

The current tension between the Government of Ontario and its doctors over what is or isn’t a fair “wage” is yet another chapter in a long saga documenting the political truth that when government is the paymaster, it has the right to call the tune. But the melody is wearing thin. To refresh myself on this long narrative, I revisited my own files to stories I wrote in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, for the Canadian Medical Association Journal and The Medical Post on the protracted fee schedule negotiation between not only the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Ontario Medical Association but also similar combatants in most other provinces. And the story line then, as it is now, was that the more money the province (that’s you) paid doctors, the less it had to pay for other key health care services—new hospitals, more beds, newer technology, more technicians, and…

The Aedes Mosquito: Carrier of More Than Just Zika

Short read: Zika Virus: What You Need to Know Introduction As Zika continues to spread, doctors and scientists have officially concluded that a causal relationship exists between pregnant women infected with Zika and microcephaly appearing in newborns (in addition to other brain anomalies).[1] Belize, Saint Lucia, and Vietnam are the latest countries to experience their first locally acquired cases. Meanwhile, Panama has recently announced its first case of microcephaly potentially linked to Zika, and Brazil is continuing to experience large-scale transmission of the virus, with a significant increase in cases of newborns suffering from microcephaly. And Colombia is experiencing an uptick in Zika cases, with the rainy season (i.e., more mosquitoes) just around the corner. Spread of Zika Image source: WHO But Zika is not the only mosquito-borne virus of global concern. In this article, we trace the epidemiology (spread) of two similar arboviruses—dengue, and chikungunya—and…

Skipping Canada’s Medical Wait List? Here’s the Costs.

One of the most daunting challenges facing Canadians distressed by unreasonably long waiting lists for medical care at home is the cost of seeking it abroad, without any help from the government health insurance they have been paying into their whole working lives. True, in some cases provincial governments will pay for, or perhaps subsidize, pre-authorized medically necessary services in the United States that are not available at home in a “reasonable” time. But who can tell what is reasonable to someone struggling physically and emotionally with cancer or an unresolved cardiovascular or musculoskeletal condition? As we have reported in previous articles, roughly 900,000 Canadians are waitlisted, with their average waiting time just to see a specialist at over 18 weeks. Most will simply have to endure, since going abroad for medical care is expensive. There is no way to sugar coat that fact. But is it always an insurmountable…

New Year, New Flu

Though a bit later than usual, the cold and flu season is back! And since freezing temperatures mean we are more likely to stay indoors, the flu virus gets a chance to spread quickly. Sure, the flu can be a nuisance, but it can also be very serious and should not be underestimated. Each year in Canada, influenza causes 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths. Luckily there is a vaccine to protect us from this disease, and it’s not too late to get it. In addition to the flu vaccine, the Government of Canada also recommends you take the following measures to protect yourself and those around you against the flu: Wash your hands frequently. (If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer and keep a small bottle handy for easy access. And don’t be shy—use as often as needed.) Cough and sneeze into the bend of your arm,…

The Zika Virus Advances: Part 2

Since early this month, when we first alerted you to the emergence of the Zika virus throughout the Americas, the impact of this mosquito-borne disease has been dynamic—even inducing several governments to advise pregnant women to avoid travel to a growing number of Zika-prone countries. The reason for singling out pregnant women (or those who might become pregnant) is that the Zika virus has been linked to an extraordinary surge of microcephaly—a fetal deformity resulting in unusually small heads and brains in newborns. The epicenter of this surge, and the region where it has been aggressively researched and documented, is Brazil, where almost 4,000 suspected cases were identified in 2015—30 times more than in any one-year period since 2010. Were it not for this link to newborn microcephaly, we likely wouldn’t be talking about Zika today, since its other manifestations are relatively mild (fever, rash, headaches, joint paint, and conjunctivitis)…