Deprived of health care or private health care?

There are principles and then there is reality. The principle: everyone should have access to quality care that respects their dignity irrespective of their ability to pay. The reality: in Canada millions of people do not have reasonable access to certain health care services (i.e., quality care available within medically acceptable timeframes), since these services are classified as non-urgent. In short, based on our available resources, we prioritize vital services (oncology, traumatology, cardiology, etc.) and create a waiting list for whatever is not life threatening.

Elective orthopedic surgery falls into this category. Six, sometimes twelve, months for the first appointment. Then six to eighteen months for surgery. When I explain this to my European or South American colleagues, they can’t believe their ears. Yet it’s true. And the problem is nowhere near being solved, for resources are not increasing whereas demand continues to grow (the population is aging).



Therefore we ration the services offered, often to the detriment of retired people (it could be called ageism in some instances). The human cost of such a situation is high: permanent disability, dependence on pain medication, loss of autonomy, loss of employment, and high financial losses (for the patient or his insurer).

Private health care aims to meet these very needs, to supplement sometimes inadequate or insufficient public services. It is not a matter of ideology, for the principle of free universal coverage must be defended as much as possible, especially when life itself is at stake. Rather, it is a valve that relieves pressure on the public system while at the same time restoring quality of life and dignity to thousands of people.

Dr. Marc Beauchamp, M.D., F.R.C.S (C)