Our country is known for many great things including free healthcare.
While our healthcare isn’t exactly free, it is much less daunting to walk into a doctor’s office knowing you’ve already paid for your visit with taxes instead of having to foot the bill at the desk. This makes us seem like the pinnacle of healthcare to many who do not live in our system. Perhaps it might be true for the consumer, but is our healthcare really that outstanding, especially here in Newfoundland?
Medical Care Plan (MCP) covers an array of services such as visits to the doctor or hospital, surgery, maternity care, and radiology. It does not include other services such as eye exams, ambulance services, and some medically necessary procedures. Private insurance helps to close these gaps, but it is not always affordable or available to those who need it. Still, the majority of healthcare is funded in the approximately $3-billion 2018 budget allotment.
That’s not to say the money that goes into our system is supplying all of the resources we need. Trying to find a family physician is almost an impossible task. There are incentives given to work in Newfoundland after medical school meant to entice physicians to stay. We bring doctors in from other countries to fill in the gaps.
And yet it seems there are nowhere near enough doctors available. If you are lucky enough to have a general practitioner, chances are you could be waiting up to a week to get an appointment. There are now some websites offering quick and easy access as well as nurse practitioner clinics that come at an out-of-pocket cost. I found my current doctor on Facebook and was lucky enough to get in within two weeks, which is practically unheard of. The last time I was at her office someone booked multiple appointments ahead so that they could ensure they would be back in time for their medication refills.
Going to the ER is like planning a day trip: what can you pack to keep yourself entertained while you wait four to 12 hours, feeling miserable?
It’s not just wait times for routine visits. Specialists in psychiatry, neurology, or rheumatology can take months to years to see. I had a referral put through in May 2017 and it was only in August 2018 that I heard anything about it, but not for an appointment. The office called to ask if I still needed to be on the waitlist; it was so long they were calling to see if there were any names they could cut from the list.
These situations can be frustrating for some and life-threatening for others. To receive a referral to a specialist in the first place often means your condition or illness is serious enough that your life is greatly affected. Imagine the shock when you realize that this heavy burden will become your new normal for months, or knowing that your health will continue to decline indefinitely with every ripped off calendar page. It’s a hopeless feeling.
Bitter emotions aren’t exclusive to non-urgent appointments. Emergency room wait times are sky high despite the constant attempts at introducing new alternatives for non-life-threatening cases. Going to the ER is like planning a day trip: what can you pack to keep yourself entertained while you wait four to 12 hours, feeling miserable?
Are we getting the best bang for our buck in our healthcare system? Possibly not.
Just recently I spent a significant period of time waiting to be seen for intense pain, only to be told that there was nothing they could do and no further testing would be done. Our healthcare system currently does not have the resources to provide sufficient and quick diagnostic services.
Are we getting the best bang for our buck in our healthcare system? Possibly not. There are significant gaps in the services we have and other areas where funding might make an improvement. Newfoundland is a difficult place to live with the current economic and social conditions. While the government is on the right track with bursaries for medical students, there is more that could be done to encourage settlement and stimulate economic growth overall.
The way referrals are handled may also have room for improvement. Extended hours and flexible scheduling are great additions to our system, although our emergency room models could also benefit from an overhaul.
While our current system continues to fail us, I do believe there are emerging problem solvers that will change the way we do things.
Kirsten Dalley is a biology student, published writer, and robotics enthusiast from central Newfoundland.