PENINSULA ZOOMERS: The time is now to fix our healthcare system

Eighteen per cent of Canadians don’t have a family doctor

I am one of the lucky British Columbians who has a family doctor.

Approximately 18.2 per cent of B.C.’s population does not. That’s about 700,000 people who are “unattached,” meaning they do not have a primary care physician.

There are many reasons for this.

My last doctor quit family practice to move to a more lucrative area of administering botox.

Before that, my physician retired and now works for the Vancouver Canucks.

Doctors are getting old and selling their practices.

Young docs are not taking their place as they are opting for more profitable specialties other than family practice or prefer working 9 to 5 in a walk-in clinic. Also, with student debt, they cannot afford to buy and run an existing practice.

As I said, I am fortunate.

Having said that, it still takes me two weeks to get an appointment with my GP.

And as we are currently in the midst of a virus pandemic, this is stressful and makes us feel vulnerable and unsettled if we don’t have immediate access to primary care. Especially in case, according to the federal health minister, we become one of the 30 to 70 per cent of Canadians who may be struck with the coronavirus.

Double that angst if you aren’t “attached” to a family physician.

And if the coronavirus or COVID-19 isn’t enough to make us worry about health care access, how long have you been waiting to see a specialist or get a knee or hip replacement?

Orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Brian Day had been waging a 10-year battle with the provincial government over a patient’s right to access private pay surgery rather than waiting months and/or years in the public domain. We await the judge’s landmark decision.

It’s time to address the inequities in our health care system.

CARP has just launched its #FixHealthCareNow and invites you to add your voice to the conversation.

Canada overspends and underperforms compared to other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries with comparable health care systems.

CARP is demanding a public commitment from politicians to fix our public health care system before the next election and has sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and all first ministers.

CARP’s chief policy officer, Marissa Lennox, said in the letter that Canada spends 10.7 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, putting us sixth highest among OECD countries.

“Yet the health outcomes we receive are, by any measure, mediocre to abysmal when compared to other countries of similar wealth,” she said.

CARP called on the leaders to stop bickering over money and focus instead “on achieving clinical outcomes” that are comparable with other countries that spend less and get more.

CARP’s demand – and details of its campaign to mobilize CARP Chapters and Canadians across the country to add their individual voices – were unveiled at CARP’s Annual General Meeting in Toronto on Feb. 27.

Here are some examples of Canada’s underperformance:

• In Scotland, 93 per cent of patients see their GP in 48 hours. In Canada, only 43 per cent of patients do.

• In Denmark, the wait time for cataract surgery is less than 40 days, versus 112 days in Canada.

• In Venice, the average wait time for hip replacement surgery is 49 days. In Vancouver, it is 180 days.

• In Canada, 18 per cent of patients wait four months or more for elective surgery. In the Netherlands, just 4 per cent wait that long, and in Germany, nobody waits that long.

We all pay for Canada’s underperforming health care system. Shouldn’t we demand better?

Fed up? Had enough?

Join our campaign!

carp.ca/fixhealthcare now

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to wash your hands!

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.

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