The headaches persist for a week, and now they're accompanied by occasional bouts of dizziness. Plus, you're having difficulty concentrating, which is affecting your work. Something's got to be wrong.
When you finally go to the doctor and describe your symptoms, he orders an MRI to make sure your headaches aren’t a sign of something serious, like a tumor.
Of course, you won't learn the answer for quite awhile. Your doctor informs you that there's a ten-week wait for an MRI. Ten weeks of chronic headaches will be bad enough, you think, but not knowing what's wrong will be even worse because of the worry.
The doc attempts to lighten the mood by pointing out that you could have gone for an MRI in less than a week if you were a dog. Somehow that's not comforting.
Your doctor goes on to tell you that you'll have to wait another 19 weeks for a referral to a neurological specialist if the MRI reveals that something is wrong. "It's probably nothing," your doctor says, "so just relax and try to put it out of your mind."
This proves impossible. The wait is so nerve-wracking -- and the headaches so bothersome -- that you do a little online research to see what might be ailing you. You visit a few expert websites and find out that the average survival rate for all forms of cancer is three to four percentage points higher in the United States than it is in Canada, thanks in part to Canada's long waiting lists.
With these statistics in mind, you can't help but consider the worst-case scenario -- a brain tumor. You remember when your neighbor had a benign tumor and had to go in for surgery. What if you end up having a malignant one?
You begin to panic. A simple MRI takes 10 weeks, and you have to wait 19 weeks for an appointment with a specialist. All told, you'd likely wait about 32 weeks from the time of your appointment with your general practitioner for neurosurgery treatment!
"What good is a single-payer healthcare system," you ask yourself, "if I have to wait eight months for brain surgery? If pets wait less than two days for an MRI and less than a week for an appointment with a specialist, perhaps I'd be better off as a dog!"
You prepare to slog through the longest 10 weeks of your life, until your turn with the MRI machine comes.
After one month, you can't wait any longer. You decide to dip into your savings to pay for a private MRI. To your dismay, every healthcare facility you call turns you away (except those in Quebec because of a 2005 Canadian Supreme Court decision), claiming that it's against the law to sidestep the public health system to purchase certain procedures privately, like MRIs.
No wonder you constantly hear of not just rich but middle-income Canadians and high-profile politicians heading south to the States to skip the line, get tests like these done privately, and pay out of pocket.
Well, now it's your turn. You head across the border to a private clinic in the United States. The money you had socked away for a family vacation is now destined for an MRI test and a motel in Cleveland.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
The Health of Canada, Part V
Sally Pipes's op-ed in June 4th Washington Examiner tracks a Canadian in pain: