Thursday, May 25, 2006

Free Canadian Health Care

(Toronto) Here's the case of Tom Garrett, an 18-year-old leukemia patient, who must fly from Toronto to Calgary every 16 days to receive photoimmune therapy not available in Ontario. This is so despite the fact that at least one hospital in Ontario has the medical equipment necessary to provide treatment.

It costs the Ontario government $1,600 for each photopheresis treatment for Garrett in Calgary's Foothills Medical Centre, and he's had about 30 so far. And in 2004-05, the Ontario health ministry spent more than $1.6 million to send eight people to the United States for the same treatment at an average cost of $201,715 per patient.

Meanwhile, at Princess Margaret Hospital sits a machine about the size of a photocopier built by a Johnson & Johnson company called Therakos Inc. for the express purpose of providing photopheresis, a machine the manufacturer donated to the hospital five years ago.
Unfortunately, the health care system in Ontario says it doesn't have enough money to operate it. Authorities are reviewing proposals and recommendations for using the equipment, however, nobody is willing to discuss the details.

As a result, patients from around Canada have to travel to Calgary for the specialized treatment and, sadly, all costs for travel, accommodations and expenses must be paid by the families. One doesn't need a calculator to figure that the cost of socialized Canadian health care is not the same for everyone. In the case of photopheresis treatment, it depends on how far away one lives from equipment that works.

Hey, but not to worry. Just as they do with the post office, government bureaucrats are working diligently to improve health care.

[Update 06/01/06]

How fortuitous. The Ontario Health mucky-mucks have announced their decision to buy more equipment.

Ontario patients suffering from a rare immune disease will no longer have to travel out of the province or to the United States for lifesaving therapy, said Health Minister George Smitherman.

The province will buy two brand-new photopheresis machines and create a two-year evaluation program at Princess Margaret Hospital at a cost of $5.15 million, Smitherman said yesterday.
What are the odds? Just as the media is reporting a deficiency in the Canadian socialized health scheme, the utopians announce a solution to the problem. Imagine that.

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