For two years now Canadians have been told our health care system is on the brink of collapse, as hospitals and intensive care units are flooded with COVID-19 cases. These days it is the unvaccinated who are being blamed for putting extra stress on the system.
There is some truth to that – the unvaccinated make up the majority of the COVID cases requiring hospitalization. But there is so much more to the story.
For the first year of the pandemic there was no vaccine, and Canadian hospitals were stretched to the limit. That the vaccine didn’t make things better is thanks to the Delta and Omicron variants (which were forseen).
Maybe the realization of just how strained the system is in the best of times might cause a rethinking of how we deliver health care in this country. Do you think that is possible?
Systemic neglect, not COVID, is what has caused the crisis. And there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Canadians, like people efverywhere, like low taxes. Yet our universal health care system costs money. In order to keep costs low, cuts have been made. Which explains why so many people in my home province of Ontario don’t have a family doctor – there simply aren’t enough of them to match our growing population.
To fix that is easy – we need to admit more people to medical school twenty years ago. Obviously, given that we have no time machines available, somebody made a policy decision that is coming back to bite us now. The same thing with the shortage of nurses and other health care professionals.
Recently the shortage of hospital and ICU beds has been blamed on the unvaccinated taking all the spots. What they don’t say is that there are fewer spots than there used to be. Cutbacks you know. Canadians don’t want to spend the money. I get that.
In Ottawa, where I live, there are five hospitals. Thirty years ago, when the population was a few hundred thousand less, there were eight. In Pembroke, where I used to live, there is one hospital that serves the community. There were two when I lived there.
I suspect these two communities aren’t unusual. When times are good and there are no pandemics, it is easy to justify cutting back on health care. The system was working fine.
Now we know that the system is, in many ways, broken. We need more health care professionals. We need greater capacity. All of which is going to cost more money.
Are Canadians willing to pay the price? Are politicians willing to raise taxes to pay for what has been identified as a need?
Or, are they willing to consider adding private care to our universal system? For 50 years the very idea has been a non-starter, but this pandemic is forcing people to look at things differently.
It would be nice to have an honest, open discussion about the state of the Canadian health care system. I’m not sure if that is possible in today’s, or any, political climate.
Which is a pity. What we have needs fixing, at the very least. Or maybe we should look at rebuilding from scratch. Does anyone have the political guts to do that?