There are many Canadians living with chronic pain or disability who would be happy to spend their own money on medical treatment, but who are forbidden from doing so because of the government's iron grip on health care.
Multiple sclerosis patients have propelled this issue into the headlines in recent weeks, leaving in droves for Poland, India, Italy, Kuwait and other places where hospitals are -- gasp! -- permitted to exchange services for money, just like any other sector of the economy.
But long waiting lists remain for many other procedures in Canada that don't make the headlines. Even routine diagnostic procedures such as MRI scans -- something people can purchase on a day's notice abroad -- take months to get "for free" in Canada.
The hidden costs of medicare -- the income lost by people too ill to work, the pain suffered by those who wait unnecessarily -- never figure into the calculations of those who pronounce Canada's system superior and sacrosanct.
My household is heavily involved in the BC healthcare sector, and in the short time we have lived here, we have had to learn the way the system works - and in what ways it doesn't.
My partner has much to say about it, but as she does not blog herself she is happy to let me tell the stories that emerge. Mental healthcare in BC is, by and large, free to the public, and this fact has caused many of the problems we see today. Overcrowding of wards and not enough doctors and professionals are the main ones but these are not caused by mere logistics. When a product is free, it will be overconsumed. That's a basic rule of economics, but there is another factor that is involved in State-run healthcare, namely, over-reliance on the system.
Because healthcare is provided by the nanny state, it is to be expected that the public behave like children towards it. It is an ideal opportunity to ascribe all bad behaviour and lack of responsibility to "mental illness", illustrating neatly the public's ignorance about mental health. The psychiatric wards are full of people who do not need to be there, discouraging those who do and making life even more difficult for them.
Hospital wards are seen by failed parents as a suitable place to store wayward children - 'children' not necessarily under 18 - so they do not have to take care of them. Grown adults who behave badly and use drugs conspire with their "guardians" to blame mental ill health for their collective failings, and threaten and abuse their way into wards, despite being told that their 'child' is just a delinquent and needs to face reality.
Once the 'child' is admitted, and once it has been concluded that the individual's laziness, destructiveness and violence is the result of "mental illness", the path is clear for placing that person on disability allowance and into the care of the taxpayer. What makes all this so much easier is that the institutions are government-run and therefore professionals work for the public, and are subject to the same whims and entitled behaviour the public expect from civil servants.
This in spite of the fact that mental health professionals are not treated as civil servants by their employers. They are "self-employed", and in the unenviable position of having their salaries -and working hours - set by the government while having none of the rights and employment protections they would enjoy as state employees. Indeed, my partner pays a third of her salary in taxes, and she is not fond of my reminding her that those taxes are used to fund her patients; she is paying them to see her.
What this mean in practical terms is that violent, criminally-inclined members of the public are entitled to walk in, threaten her safety and call her a 'bitch' on the taxpayers' dime, so that his/her parents can have someone to blame for their own inadequacies; a shirking of responsibility only a government can encourage.
In no other industry are professionals treated like mere functionaries. And we wonder why Canada has not enough doctors? Canada has too many patients, because Canadians are being encouraged to sit back and let government take care of their health. In reality, government is alleviating the responsibilities of its failed citizens at the expense of its successful ones.
Government-run mental health is a disaster, not least because consumers are entirely insulated from its costs. The wastage is overwhelming, and the ones who truly suffer are the genuinely ill and needy. An awful lot of mental health issues in BC are caused by drug use, but lot aren't.
I estimate that in our local hospital, more than 80% of mental health patients are immigrants, which means that a huge extra cost comes in the form of translators- of whom there are dozens present at any one time. How exactly have such recent immigrants managed to acquire mental health issues in the short time they have lived in Canada? Because mental health has fallen into the same category as 'welfare' as a result of the government's "iron grip on healthcare", it is open to the kind of abuse that health care should not be subjected to. And the taxpayer is footing the (massive) bill.