I recently underwent inguinal hernia repair (see gory details). Everything went smoothly. After referral from a general practitioner, I was examined by a surgeon, waited a few weeks to catch someone’s cancellation date, went in for half a day of prep, surgery, and recovery, and am slowly convalescing. All along I was treated with kindness and proficiency.
Mine is a tiny case in the big picture of the Canadian health care system. Politicians tell us that we’re in a funding crisis and evidence is everywhere. More and more services are excluded (i.e. patient pays for what used to be covered), wait times for surgery keep getting longer (e.g., knee replacement 15.3 months, orthopedic surgery 9.6, eye surgery 8.7, gynecology 5.1), wait time for a non-emergency MRI in Victoria is 11 months, and our only residential hospice is begging for donations to cover a budget shortfall.
As a consumer, I was struck by the ease with which a quick follow-up took a bite out of the funding pie. After I’d waited for an hour in a little room (“doctor X will be right with you”), the surgeon entered, looked at a printout with my name on it, smiled and asked “did I operate on you?”, examined my belly, declared that it was healing nicely, and was out the door before I could pull up my pants (“come see me if there’s a problem”).
Total time spent: less than a minute. Billing to BC Medical Plan: between $23.82 and 34.06. Surgeon’s total annual billing: just over $730,000. By comparison, the province-wide gross average paid to family doctors was $232,683, to specialists $311,171. I realize that doctors incur expenses for salaries, supplies, equipment, rent, insurance, etc. My point here is not to questions anyone’s competence, but to wonder how prudently public health care dollars (our taxes) are divvied up.