Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Reply To Those Anti-Canadian Health-Care Ads Playing on American TV

By now you've seen those frightening TV commercials describing patient disasters attributed to the Canadian health care system. It's awfully unfair (but highly effective) to highlight anecdotal disaster stories to shape public opinion. I have no doubt that if someone tried, it wouldn't be particularly difficult to come up with a similar TV advertising campaign depicting American health-care disaster stories that would be equally frightening.

Now the Canadian health care system is not running TV ads defending itself, as rivals would do in a political campaign. That's because
it's no skin off our collective Canadian nose what Americans think of our health care. If Americans are dumb enough to fall for a fear campaign, so be it. Apparently Willie Horton type ads shouting "Boo-SOCIALISM!!" at viewers is all that it takes to get people off health care reform.
It seems that fear factor is as effective today as it was thirty years ago in the Dukakis/Bush advertising war.

If I was to run a rebuttal TV ad that promotes the benefits of Canadian style health care, by telling an anecdotal experience, it might go something like this;
By the way the story in my commercial is also 100% true, it concerns my mother's Canadian health-care experience that happened this very week.

My mom is 85 years old and lives alone in a condo in the west end of the city on Montreal. She is independent, lucid and in relatively good health. She still drives and is completely autonomous. About 10 years ago she had bypass heart surgery and has been monitored quite effectively by her GP and cardiologist.

Monday night at about 3 AM she awoke to a crushing pain in her chest. At first she put it off to a panic attack but finally realized that it was serious.

She dialed 9-1-1 (Yes, we have 911 service in Canada) and spoke with a dispatcher who tried to ascertain the problem.
"I'm not well and I need to go to the hospital, my chest hurts!"

"YES Ma'am! we'll be there within ten minutes.
The dispatcher was wrong, the 'state' run 'socialist' ambulance was there within five minutes. They checked her vital signs, gave her oxygen and placed her on a stretcher and tucked her into the ambulance. With lights flashing, they raced to the hospital and arrived there within another seven or eight minutes.
At the hospital an emergency team was waiting for her at the door. The ambulance drivers turned her over to the care of the hospital staff, wished her good luck and left.

She was instantly ushered into a cubicle in the emergency room where a team led by a staff doctor stabilized her heart (which was beating dangerously slowly.) She was administered various drugs and had a temporary pacemaker implanted in a vein in her leg.


She was sent up to the C.C.U (Coronary Care Unit) where she spent a couple of hours under excellent and dedicated care. In the morning she underwent a diagnostic angiogram test to determine if the heart-related arteries had any blockages. An hour later, a heart surgeon came by her bed and explained that the blockages were not serious enough to warrant bypass surgery, but told her that she did need to have a pacemaker implanted in her chest to regulate her heartbeat.



The surgery was to take place that same day, probably at 12 noon, but the CCU nurse warned that since she was stable, the procedure could be pushed back in the case of an emergency. In the meantime she was given constant medical supervision and about 11:45 she was informed that the surgeon was involved in an emergency procedure and that her surgery would indeed be delayed---until 4:30PM.
At 4PM the nurses slid out the device that connected the diagnostic wires to a monitoring device and slid it into a portable unit, without disturbing my mother. A very nice and polite orderly wheeled her down to the elevator for the trip to the operating room accompanied by a CCU nurse who brought her into the operating room and handed her off.

I waited patiently for the procedure to be completed in the family room opposite the CCU where she was to be brought back after the surgery.
I used the complementary Internet and telephone to check my email and to keep in touch with family and tell them about the surgery.


Sixty minutes later, my mom was delivered back to the CCU, the pacemaker safely implanted in her chest. She would stay in the CCU to be monitored until the doctors were satisfied that she was stable and that the pacemaker was functioning correctly. Fifteen minutes after she arrived a technician arrived with a portable X-ray machine to take a picture of the heart.

In the morning I came by and found that my mother was doing well and was transferred out of the CCU and was resting in the Recovery room, again under excellent, although less intense care.
A doctor examined my mother and deemed her ready to be discharged. The nurses advised her that they would be forwarding her file back to her cardiologist.



Now as commercials go, it would be a beauty, but does it reflect reality?
Probably not, everything went too perfectly. In fact, I couldn't
imagine any health care system in the world performing better. But I do believe that this story is a lot more representative of reality than the depictions that are shown in TV ads presented by the US health care industry.

How would the American health care system handle my mom?
  • A whopping ambulance bill.
  • A bunch of useless and unnecessary tests meant to ward off malpractice suits with the secondary benefit of driving up the bill.
  • A recommendation to have bypass surgery, medically justified but completely unnecessary, all with the intent to maximize profits for the hospital and the surgeons.
  • An extra long stay in hospital to 'insure' that the patient is fine. More useless tests and prescriptions.
But all this would happen only if my mother had good insurance or was rich.
If not, I wonder? What if she was one of the uninsured?

Should Canadian medicare be a model for the USA. Probably not.

There are a lot better systems being practiced in countries all over the world, but at any rate, it doesn't really matter.
Given the fierce fight and the massive amounts of money being spent to frighten and misinform Americans, there is no chance reform will happen.

Here in Canada we are looking to improve, let's hope we are are not as entrenched and invested with what we have, as our neighbours to the south are.

Can we change for the better? Hopefully.

After all, we did manage the roll over to the metric system.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Thanks for writing it.

    I wish all the best to your mother.