November 19th, 2018

Two-tiered health care is already here

By Letter to the Editor on July 11, 2018.

Over the past two years I’ve become more familiar with the Alberta health-care system than I would have liked due to an injury that has led to four operations to date.

Some of the things I found out are quite disconcerting. I was informed that the year-plus long waits for MRIs are not because they are booked solid, but rather, because there aren’t enough trained staff to operate the machine. It often sits empty!

If you have the money, however, you can pay for your MRI to be done at the U of L with little wait time. In fact, their marketing says the machine is top of the line and more accurate in results than those available through AHS. So, if you can afford it, you can get a more accurate diagnosis, much sooner. Patients shouldn’t have to be in pain for years while waiting for testing, and not everybody can afford the $500-plus it costs to use this facility.

I also found out that the long waits for surgery aren’t necessarily due to the sheer amount of patients; it can be because surgeons have reached their maximum surgical suite time and aren’t allowed any more surgeries with the AHS cap. This, too, means that the surgical suite can remain empty while patients wait for long periods of time in debilitating pain.

I personally have been waiting over a year for a first appointment with a shoulder surgeon in Calgary to hopefully regain use of my left arm and relieve the chronic pain, and may have a two- to three-year wait by the time the surgery is actually performed. My circumstances aren’t unique, and I’m sure not the worst as far as injury. While Googling the Calgary specialists’ phone number yesterday to see where things are at, a private Calgary clinic showed up in the search. For those who can afford it, it is a clinic that hosts top-notch hip, knee and shoulder surgeons and under a three-month wait.

There is something inherently wrong with a system that has available surgeons and available equipment not being utilized while patients quality of life and ability to work are compromised. And beyond that, I’m not sure why we are worried about becoming a two-tiered health-care system É we already are!

Jean Van Kleek


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One Response to “Two-tiered health care is already here”

  1. gs172 says:

    You are absolutely correct in your assessment of the health care fiasco that exists presently as I am also experiencing it as well. After being told of a 10 to 11 month wait in 2017 for an MRI for a chronic back pain problem I called the Mayfair clinic in Calgary. I called on a Thursday and had the procedure done the following Monday, $760 lighter. Diagnosis was 2 herniated discs. Treatment was opioids, which I am hesitant to use due to obvious reasons and cortisone shots which are temporary at best. Surgery when discussed with my health provider was met with the statement “you can still walk”! Meanwhile a coworker who had a similar injury that happened at work has undergone 2 surgeries in the same time while my quality of life suffers. Why? Because WCB will pay for the procedure while the rest of us go into a never-ending queue. I joke if I win the lottery the first thing I’d do is see a specialist not limited by rationing.

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