The joys of universal health care in Quebec

Posted: January 17, 2007 in News and views

Disclaimer: Don’t call me out on my analysis of the situation, I’m only going by what I see and hear – lots of people are much more qualified than I to discuss this, but whatever.

Funny, in a comment yesterday, Evil Spock said Canada did seem foreign because of universal health care. Yesterday, I heard a story on the that I figured would make a good blog entry, and it regards our much vaunted universal health care. Gotta love the syncronicity of it all.

Now, I wouldn’t presume to talk about the state of health care elsewhere in Canada, but the situation in Quebec is dire.

Several years ago the government, in an effort to save money “retired” lots of doctors and nurses and closed lots of hospital beds, leading to a chronic shortage, and the available professionals being terribly overworked.

Along with that, doctors and nurses in Quebec have a propensity for leaving the province to work in other provinces or the US, and often, in the case of nurses, in Europe as the pay here is considerably lower than anywhere else. This leads to a glaring lack of GPs; most Quebecers don’t have a family doctor simply because there are none available. And with waiting lists several years long in clinics, well your changes of bagging a GP for just the regular stuff like annual checkups are slim at best.

I consider myself lucky in that, even though I don’t have a family doctor (mine left the clinic leaving no forwarding address – she’s probably in the States by now), the one doctor left at the clinic does follow Mr. Jazz and I, but for health problems only; annual checkups are out of the question as she simply doesn’t have time to do them, having has inherited all the patients of the two doctors who left. She’s a wonderful doctor but you can’t help but wonder how long she’ll last.

Apparently an average wait at a Quebec emergency room is now 10-12 hours. On a bad day, you might wait 15-20. That’s a helluva long time when you’re feeling bad. Your chances of getting immediate treatment are pretty much nil unless you stagger in with a knife through your heart.

Case in point, on January 8, a woman miscarried in a Montreal area hospital bathroom after waiting 15 (yes, you read right) hours to see a doctor. Here’s the story.

So, you’ve waited your requisite 12 hours in ER, they’ve seen you, they decide to keep you. Halleluia you say, I’ve made it!


You’re nowhere near making it. Due to the lack of available beds, you might spend several days on a stretcher in the corridor. Well, you might have a few months ago. Emergency rooms are much less overcrowded now. Because now, you see, they have a system. They’ve fixed up large rooms (dorms really), where they park all the overflow patients until they find them a room. Bad case scenario: you might spend a week or so there, often in a windowless room, until they find you a bed.

Of course, once you actually have your nice comfy bed in what by now seems like a cushy room, you might just pick up one of the nasty bacteria that seem to be thriving in hospitals these days and killing folks left right and centre.

How very third world. And this is in Quebec. Part of one of the richest countries in the world.

Well, at least universal health care is fair. Whatever your level of income, you’re fucked.

  1. Steven Novak says:

    Being “fucked” is something that all humanity shares in. ;)Steve~

  2. ticknart says:

    At least there’s something there for everyone.Here’s a story about a friend of a friend.

  3. Evil Spock says:

    Wow. I had no idea the state of healthcare in Canada was that bad. As a progressive here in the states, I’ve always supported universal healthcare for the US. You present legitimate evidence for us not to go there.I still support government subsidized universal healthcare for the poor especially children.

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