Canada Day

It is traditional for me to say a little something about the great country I live in on its birthday, and there’s no reason for this year to be an exception.  (There are previous years, if you want to click on them: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.)

This year is a quiet Canada Day for us, and so I would like to say just two things.  First, because yesterday (well, all week really, but I only celebrated yesterday) was Pride,  I want to say that I am profoundly and immensely proud and grateful that I live in a diverse Country, where all people are intended to be equal under the law and within our society, and that we move ever closer to that goal. 

(Behold – the annual Canadian sock and beer picture.)

Second, I would also like to say, publicly, and without reservation that I am grateful and proud of our health care system.  I once read a thread somewhere where some people (some people who were not Canadian) were discussing my position on this, and said, essentially (and without reservation) that if I liked our system, it has to be that I am either a) stupid, or b) someone who has not needed that system, and that I would be singing a very different song, had anything every really gone wrong – health wise.   At the time I almost choked on my coffee, but I didn’t say anything, because anybody who would say that a non-citizen who’s never used our system would emphatically know more about it than someone actively using that system?  Maybe a) doesn’t apply, because I couldn’t see any point in getting into that argument.

The other thing I didn’t say at that time was anything in response to the idea that if anyone in our family had ever really been sick, or needed the system, we would see its flaws.  At the time within our family, we’d had our share of the regular stuff… births, accidents, appendectomies – that sort of thing, and the system had always served us. (I especially appreciated that here in Ontario I was able to choose a home or hospital birth,  and Obstetrician, Family Doctor or Midwife, as I wished.) It was amazing (and still is) to me, that I can have all of these services without worrying about the cost – but in a lot of ways, those readers were right. It’s easier for a system to deliver heath care to people who are essentially well.  The proof is in the catastrophic illnesses, or emergencies – and what I didn’t share at that time is that our family has had its fair share of that.

Like all families, bad things happen to us, although I don’t always discuss them with you because… well, not only is it a pretty big violation of privacy, it’s also a serious downer.  I can tell you though, that we’ve had serious accidents, with a family member flown to another city because better emergency care was available there, we had someone else have a pulmonary embolism after surgery, someone else we know required years of mental health treatment to get well.  Heck, when Sam was three years old, she had a umbilical hernia that ended up trapping a loop of her intestines. Within minutes, she was referred to the best hospital (The Hospital for Sick Children) and treated by a doctor that was a specialist in the surgery she needed.  For that matter, I had very serious surgeries several years ago, and came very close to departing this earth, and experienced first hand what our health care is like. 
None of this cost a dime – and that was essential, because mostly, we’re a family of artists (no health care insurance and back when that happened, we were actually quite well below the poverty line.

This Canada Day, I want to say that I’m proud and grateful for the way that our health care has served Tupper over the last year.  He required extensive, specialized and very expensive care, and I am grateful that not once during that time was there ever a conversation about money, a concern about who would pay for what, or a risk that something might not be covered. Every decision about his care was a decision between Tupper and his doctors, without needing approval or permission from any third party.  Now that he is gone, there is no financial burden to resolve, and I’m grateful for that. 

No system is perfect.  I know that, and I won’t ever say that ours is – there’s plenty of room for improvement. For starters, ours is a triage system.  The sickest people go first, without regard for anything else. I don’t have a problem with it, but it means that if a wealthy CEO and a homeless guy show up at the hospital, with a broken arm and a heart attack, the CEO is going to find himself waiting for his turn. (This has pissed off the occasional CEO, and they end up using money to go first somewhere else – like the US, although it’s less than 1% of Canadians who ever seek care elsewhere – over their entire lives.)   We do have long wait times for things that can wait (and they’re not as long as you think- comparable or less than most other countries.) I can also say that we have a long way to go in figuring out how to get rural places the same sort of health care available in cities – but that’s complex.  You can’t put a level 3 nursery in every tiny or far flung town – and people who live way the heck out there often have to travel to get care.  Also, we could really use more doctors in general – but I hear our neighbours to the south could use a bunch too.   This system works well enough though, that we have long life expectancies, low infant mortality and morbidity, that the valid complaints are few and far between,  and that 85.7% of us like our system, and feel proud.

The system works well enough that I choose the doctors I see, that I see an unlimited number of them, that I totally got to talk to someone in sports medicine (even though I’m not exactly an athlete) about my sore cyclist knees, and that the people in my family have been as well cared for as anyone I’ve ever heard of, and that their illnesses don’t cause debt. I go to sleep at night knowing that the sickest people are going first, regardless of their social standing, or ability to pay, and that does my heart good, even if it is occasionally difficult to wait my turn.

I’m proud, and I am grateful.  Thanks Canada,  for what you’ve done for our family.

Let’s hear it Canadians -what are you grateful for this Canada Day?