Wednesday, October 20, 2004


For all you fans of gov't run health care...

the WSJ ran an opinion piece (link probably requires subscription) discussing this year's installment of the Fraser Report, a Vancouver based group's assement of waiting times at Canadian Hospitals.

Under Canada's government-run health-care monopoly, Fraser reports that the average wait for hospital treatment is 17.9 weeks. That's the average over 12 specialties and 10 provinces. To take just one example, the projected wait for hip-replacement surgery in British Columbia is 52 weeks. "These waiting times are the longest that Canadians have ever experienced," notes Fraser's senior health policy analyst, Nadeem Esmail. And "they exist despite record levels of health spending."

The waiting times have fueled Canada's growing gray market in health care. Patients seeking to avoid the pain or inconvenience of long waits increasingly seek treatment in private clinics. (This in part explains why the B.C. Health Ministry finds the actual median wait for a hip replacement is "only" 22 weeks.) Paying a private clinic for a hip replacement or a cataract operation isn't always strictly legal -- there are laws limiting the treatment private clinics may provide -- but the government understands the political expediency of looking the other way.

The government itself uses private clinics for Royal Canadian Mounted Police, provincial workman's compensation cases and prison inmates. Thus the Canadian joke about the prisoner who asks his cellmate, "What are you in for?" Answer: "Hip replacement." If all else fails, there's always the American option. Timely Medical Alternatives, a private company in Vancouver, contracts with hospitals south of the border to care for Canadian patients.


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