Wednesday, February 27, 2013

National Health Insurance: what a great idea

On the shores of Fulford Harbour where eye connected with stick.

Yesterday, while walking and taking photographs at Indian Point I ran my eye into a jagged stick poking out of the undergrowth, Yeoww! I thought for sure that I had really done it this time, my eye must have been skewered! I help my hand over my eye, felt the pain and wondered what I should do now. I was half an hour’s walk from my van, there was no one around and of course we had never got around to getting that emergency cell phone. Some time later the pain subsided and I tentatively took my hand away. I could see just fine. There was some blood, but perhaps it was just a scratch on my eyelid. I walked back to the car, mopped out the blood with a damp tissue and used the rear view mirror to check the eyeball; oh, oh, I can see a dark spot, better get it checked at the emergency room of our local island hospital.

I check in, show my medicare card, and wait. I have heard about extended waits at Canadian emergency rooms but it is many years since I’ve needed the service. Finally I am triaged by a nurse and wait some more, out of the corridor at last. A recent arrival has a heart condition which puts him in first place so I wait some more and look around me.

Before me on racks reaching to the ceiling are the medical supplies and one catches my attention, a special kit for eyes ( actually both eyes are working fine and I am starting to feel like a phony), but there are row upon row of tools and bandages and so many things I really know nothing about. What keeps me here is the knowledge that I still need to be checked out by a professional, that my 'little eye problem' is best caught here and now rather that as a severe infection or loss of sight sometime later. I will cost our national health service something now but later would be much more expensive. The doctor comes at last and competently sticks my eyelid together and carefully checks my eye. She explains everything to me and sends me on my way. Another citizen back in operation and on his way to complete recovery. And at no direct expense to myself: I pay through my taxes and a small monthly premium based on income ( We pay this in BC, but it is free in most of Canada). If that visit was a direct hit on my personal finances though, would I have come for medical aid or taken a chance? How much would that have cost our society in the end. A stitch in time really does save.

Yes, I was restive during my wait, probably I had arrived at lunch break, perhaps a doctor had to be called in and that took a while, but when I consider that our little island actually has doctors and a well staffed and equipped hospital, my little hallway interlude seems petty indeed.

There is pressure from medical corporations based in America and from individual private medical clinics to move to a mixed public/private system. The rich and privately insured would have fewer wait lines and would not have to rub shoulders with the rest of us. Our Governments are tempted by the possibility of getting out from under the cost of financing this service and by a recent political slant towards private enterprise, but the public likes what they have got and hangs on. The same conditions still apply for the average citizen that brought about the Medicare system in the first place: compassion, fairness, equal access, a healthy citizenry.

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