Published On: Thursday, 18 April 2019

OPINION: Medical Tourism Would Help Patients, The Economy, And Yes, Canadian Health Care

Two friends recently chose to obtain medical services in the United States and Mexico that gave both of them a renewed lease on life.

Clean facilities? Check. Trustworthy pre and post-operative consultation? Check. Successful surgery? Check. Pain and medical problems solved? Check. Resumption of normal activities? Check.

All for writing a cheque.

One paid just over $5,000 for internal surgery in Tijuana, Mexico, received first class service and is delighted with the results. With their permission, doctors also fixed a hernia during the operation. Two-for-one service, if you will.

They flew to San Diego, were picked up by concierge service, escorted through the U.S./Mexico border and stayed in first class accommodation while being prepared for surgery. The medical facility was pristine clean, matching reviews they devoured prior to the trip.

Any and all questions were answered throughout the process, which began with extensive consultation. The Mexican physicians were in constant contact with the patient’s Canadian doctor, who was fully aware of the procedure and process. With that, the patient had all normal concerns alleviated, and was greeted with post-operation care and monitoring once they returned to Canada a few short days later.

Another endured years of chronic knee pain, which they were barely able to endure thanks to a crutch, as they waited for “their turn” for elective knee replacement surgery.

Finally, after consultations with family members, and a peek at their bank account that confirmed they were comfortably able to cover the $16,000 price tag through an Arizona medical facility, they went for it.

It was a similar experience. First class travel, accommodation and care. In and out, comfortably back home within a matter of days.

The result? They are walking crutch-less and painless, for the first time in many years. With a big smile on their face as they were able to resume normal day-to-day activities they hadn’t been able to enjoy for years.

Couldn’t they have continued to wait their turn in Canada’s “one-tier” health care system? Sure. But why continue to put up with the pain and discomfort while options were available?

They faced a decision: Spend the money now and “get their lives back”. Or line up in the lengthening queue that Canadian health care has become.

And wait. And wait. And wait.

They invested, and are now reaping the rewards of re-invigorated health.

Some aspects of Canadian health care are excellent, most notably if it’s urgent or an emergency, as those patients are looked after immediately and without question.

But clearly, the “care” aspect is deteriorating. Is that actually becoming a misnomer? With the lack of “care” for those who need the system but can’t obtain it because they can “live with the pain” and sent to the back of the line, perhaps it should be more correctly referred to as the “health industry”.

Oh yes, and Canadian health care is certainly not “free”, as defenders cry every time any possible adjustment to the status quo is suggested. The average Canadian family of four pays just under $12,000 per year, hidden in their income tax bill, for health care. It is far from free.

Our aging population and ever-rising costs make the long-term sustainability of this country’s public health system untenable. While many recognize it, the hue and cry against any and all attempts to change and refine the status quo quickly chase those who could make necessary changes running for cover. It appears that only a complete collapse of the public system would convince Canadians that time for an overhaul of the system is nigh.

Medical Tourism, on the other hand, can accomplish three things.

First, people who can afford to do so, could and would pay for medical services here, alleviating pain and reducing surgical wait lists in private clinics.

Second, it would help the economy by keeping those dollars in Canada, as well as providing new employment – and investment – opportunities here.

And third, it would help improve the public system. How? By introducing a competitor into the monopolistic marketplace.

There is no better way to get a company to pull up its collective socks and improve service than to have a competitor open their doors and offer to meet their needs quicker and more cost efficiently. The existing system would be forced to compete and improve from within.

This is where First Nations, in particular, can help those needing health care and themselves. Private clinics consistently battle – and mostly fail – to survive the assaults of Canada Health Act defenders. First Nations technically could under the banner of helping improving health, and their own financial outlook.

Former Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie unveiled an ambitious plan to create a major health care facility on their Okanagan land years ago. It hasn’t happened yet. . .there, or elsewhere.

Who would be willing to resist any First Nation facility that would drastically reduce surgical wait lists while accelerating their own economic self-sustainability and create well paying jobs in the process?

This may offer the best opportunity to fix Canada’s health care crisis.

MARK MACDONALD

But if we’re willing to admit it, we already have two-tiered health care. It’s just that the second tier – that is helping people get their lives and health back – is in other countries.

Those services could and should be made available, here at home.