Hospital visit

Health care is commonly one of the salient features of life and governance in any community. Lately it has been the subject of controversy arising on the one hand from accusations of regression and on the other hand from debate about looming privatization. I have experienced both public and private health care systems in Canada and the United States of America.

Canada may be able to deliver not only the must-haves like universal primary care but also the nice-to-haves like drug coverage for those currently falling through the cracks. It would just take some courage from politicians.  There is an obvious way to find the money: it would simply require amending the Canada Health Act to make explicit that provinces would no longer be penalized if they allowed a small number of willing patients to buy quicker care so that provinces can loosen their rules. This would then free up scarce resources such that provinces could expand public drug coverage beyond their current programs. One might think of it as a policy swap whereby public coverage would be somewhat curtailed for hospital and physician services and somewhat expanded for drugs.

As anyone who’s seen the subway ads advertising clinics in Buffalo knows, we already have two tiers: those who can afford to leave the country for prompt care and those who can’t.

Josh Dehaas, “The Hub”

My experience with private health care in the United States of America (after I collapsed from my bicycle on the beach in Florida in 2018) was very favourable.

Late afternoon on Saturday, February 10th I arrived at Halifax Health on the cargo bed of a red beach ambulance with a black eye dressed in my sandy bicycle togs and plastic blue Crocs. My bicycle was nowhere to be seen. Halifax Health is a longstanding (1928) hospital in Daytona Beach located within sight of the world famous International Speedway.  Coincidentally the hospital has recently opened its prestigious France Tower named after the France family which founded NASCAR and owns the Interntional Speedway Corp. My arrival at the hospital was the result of a Traumatic Pneumothorax, basically the collapse of my lung caused by an injury that tore my lung and allowed air to enter the pleural space (the area between the lung and chest). Though this injury can be caused by motor vehicle accidents, gunshot or knife wounds, it is just as normal to arise from bicycle accidents. I also broke my ribs.

The month-long hospitality (including surgery for my punctured lung and instalment of a pacemaker) was a dream. I had a spacious well-outfitted private room and bathroom; the interior hallways of the hospital were clean, wide and easily managed; the professional and nursing staff were excellent; and – based on loose suggestions – the drugs were sublime. Reportedly the cost to my insurer exceeded US $860,000.

Health care in Canada is governed by the province pursuant to our constitution; viz., the British North America Act, Sec. 92 specifically under the heading of “Property and Civil Rights”. Based upon my experiences with the provincial health care system, including my several visits over the years to the Ottawa Heart Institute, yesterday here with my family physician and today here at the X-ray department, I count myself lucky to be included as a resident and citizen of the Dominion of Canada and the Province of Ontario. And I must add specifically, the Town of Mississippi Mills because we are so fortunate to have such extensive health care literally within minutes of where we live. I say this expressly so because earlier this morning I had the misfortune to read the world news.

A peek at Al Jazeera, BBC, CBC, CNN and Fox reveals news of two things in particular: one, killing in Israel and Gaza (and a horrific similar history of war, murder and rape throughout other parts of the world); and, two, breeding grounds for nativism and far-right politics.

As a result, France may be on the cusp of electing a far-right government promising to clamp down on immigration, to further suppress the rights and liberties of French Muslims, and to push back against what they deem to be EU impositions.

Yet the concerns over a far-right resurgence are not entirely without merit. It is not only France where the far right is on the rise, but also Germany. At this latest European election, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) came second with 16 percent in Germany, beating Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats. The anti-immigrant party drew massive support in the former East Germany and among young voters. AfD is so radical that even Le Pen’s National Rally cannot stomach some of its positions and statements. National Rally recently demanded, and secured, the German party’s expulsion from the Identity and Democracy (ID) grouping in the European Parliament partly in response to positive comments one of its bigwigs made about Hitler’s Waffen SS.

Canada is not spared its concerns regarding both health care and illiberal politicians and would-be autocrats. It is increasingly evident that both problems are being fuelled by fear; and, naturally the people to whom it applies are those conveniently threatened by immigration (which has long ago been proven to be a misguided revolt). In the absence of publicly promoted policies, platforms or projects to address these simmering problems, the populace (and seemingly the politicians) are left with only one resort and that is, “Turn back the clock!”

Meanwhile having dealt with my own health care issues, I serendipitously noted on my way out of town for my ritual afternoon automobile drive that there were strawberries for sale in a booth on the edge of town. The young girl who attended behind the counter spoke to me as I approached the booth.  Her accent was clearly neither English nor French.  I boldly asked, “Where are you from?” to which she replied, “Ukraine”.  I was stunned.  She explained she arrived here 4 months ago.  She is 22 years old. I assured here that in my estimate she spoke English very well and that she would meet with success. I might add that she was exceedingly helpful, including carrying my bag of strawberries, jam, salsa and veggies to the car. Naturally colliding with an immigrant from a potential war zone only heightened my appreciation of Canadianism which coincidentally nicely coincides with the upcoming Canada Day on July 1st.

It was in this spirit of mixed anxiety and hopefulness that I thereafter proceeded to fulfill my “afternoon delight” (Starland Vocal Band). The other common obstructions to the enjoyment of a sunny day were entirely absent. The car ran perfectly; there were no clouds or rain; the air was breezy and dry with the smell of newly mown grass; the green corn fields were maturing. And upon my return home I plopped upon the deck chair on the balcony for some dissolving sunshine.  I dreamt about the strangest images, a red bird attached to a ball. My mind effortlessly drifted from ancient to immediate recollections. It was a vulgar display of complacency.