Monday, March 23, 2009

Beware:Canada's Universal Healthcare Can Kill You

News and Observer -- Questions are arising over whether a medical helicopter might have been able to save actress Natasha Richardson. The province of Quebec lacks a medical helicopter system, common in the United States and other parts of Canada, to airlift stricken patients to major trauma centers. Montreal's top head trauma doctor said Friday that may have played a role in Richardson's death.


At 3/23/2009 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But it's free! What could be wrong with that?

At 3/23/2009 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh come on. I have been skiing there, and at Mt Sutton, widely known for its glade skiinng (no trails, they clear out the underbrush and samll trees and you ski through and between the trees).

It is on the middle of nowhere. there is not enough populton to support a Mcdonalds and a pub, let alone a helicopter.

Might a helicopter have saved her? maybe yes.

In such a place, how many years would a multimillion dollar helicopter plus it's crew be sitting around to make a rescue?

How many skiers have died on the slopes from heart attacks and accidents in places as mundane and populated as Bryce VA or Moose in NH.

Except they weren't famous.

This is unfortunate and sad, bu tit is also unusual, which is precisely why it drew so much attention.

Yes, helmets are important, but how many spectacular, high speed crashes have we seen that resulted in survivable injuries?

Let's get a grip on life and recognize that we cannot afford, nor do we want to tavoid all risks.

Neither do we wnat to enter them with a false understanding of what we ae up against.

Skiing has an element of danger. The signs tell you so.

Don'tblame that on he health care system.


At 3/23/2009 11:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrible headline to prove your point. How about all the poor people who have had their lives saved by being treated as opposed to not being able to afford/avoid treatment.

At 3/23/2009 11:10 PM, Blogger J Young said...

"Beware: US's non-universal Healthcare System can kill you"

Get real people. There were clearly several events that occurred that led to this actress' death. Don't be stupid.

At 3/24/2009 1:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The province of Quebec lacks a medical helicopter system"

As the article states the province of Quebec - not just the ski area in question - lacks a medical helicopter system. Please read the article before you comment.

"In such a place" a helicopter would likely make a number of rescues. You could use parts of Washington state as a crude comparison. In the United States helicopters are used to provide critical services to areas far from a trauma center. That doesn't mean that it is the middle of nowhere, just that the local hospital is not equipped for serious cases.

Also, the Ms Richardson died in a hospital, not the slopes, and the implication is that a more timely medical evacuation would have changed the outcome. In Bruce VA or Moose NH she would have been airlifted out. That is the difference. Also, it would not have mattered whether or not she was a celebrity.

At 3/24/2009 2:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is probably also important to point out that in the US air ambulance services are profitable while in Canada it would just be another cost. Air ambulance services are usually a division of a trauma center/major hospital and effectively feed patients to them. So not only is there the substantial bill for the helicopter ride but the hospital also gets to charge for what are often icu visits.

Helicopters are also cheaper than expanding emergency services at community hospitals.

Air ambulance services are amazing. They save lives on a daily basis. If you are shot, terribly injured in a car accident, or hit your head on a ski slope the helicopter ride can mean the difference between life or death.

The point, though, is that in Canada the healthcare industry is even less consumer driven than in the United States. You would have to lobby the government about the merits of such a service.

At 3/24/2009 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In Bruce VA or Moose NH she would have been airlifted out."

I don't think so, because in those places it would be faster to drive to a nearby adequate hospital where she could be evaluated, stabilized and then flown out if necessary.

I don't think Washington state is any thing like the area around Mt Sutton. I can easily see a lot more helicopter use in Washington than Quebec.

Maryland is reconsidering their helicopter sevices after several fatal crashes this year. But in MD the situation is much different: helicoptersa are used because ambulances can't get through the traffic.

I was at Breckenridge when a Ski lift broke killing several people and wounding many. There were plenty of helicopters that day but again, it is a whole different kind of place than Mt Sutton.

You can't blame this on Canada's health care system.


At 3/24/2009 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Beware: US's non-universal Healthcare System can kill you"

Get real people. There were clearly several events that occurred that led to this actress' death. Don't be stupid.

This has to be the stupidest post I've ever come across. MLK Harbor Hospital / King Harbor or as the people who use it call it, "Killer King", is a PUBLIC HOSPITAL. It was built after the Watts riots, BY THE GOVERNMENT, to provide access to affordable health care. Sound familiar? It is operated and funded, BY THE GOVERNMENT, getting most of it's money from Medicare and Medicaid. It is a perfect example of what our health care system will look like once Obama and the Democrats are through with it.

Get a clue. Don't be stupid.

At 3/24/2009 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But last June, a majority of Canada's Supreme Court struck down a Quebec law that banned private health insurance and held that the public system inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on many of its patients. The Fraser Institute has found it takes an average of 17.9 weeks between the time a patient makes an appointment to see a general practitioner and when he can then see a specialist. He will then be treated by a system that ranks 13th out of 22 advanced countries in access to MRI technology; 17th out of 21 in access to CT scanners and seventh out of 22 in access to radiation machines. The safety valve in the system is that nearby U.S. hospitals can provide treatment for emergency cases and patients willing to pay.

But Canada's public care doesn't save money. As the satirist P.J. O'Rourke once noted, "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free." When adjusted for the age of its population, Canada vies with Iceland and Switzerland as the highest spender on health care among the 28 most developed nations with universal systems. Dr. David Gratzer, a Toronto physician affiliated with the Manhattan Institute, calculates that a Canadian earning $35,000 a year pays a stunning $7,350 in health-care taxes.

Canada's Supreme Court was scathing in its indictment of the system. "Access to a waiting list is not access to health care," the court ruled. "Delays in the public health care system are widespread . . . in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists." The court struck down a Quebec law banning private medical insurance, which should lead to successful challenges to similar laws in other provinces. While last week the court stayed the impact of its ruling in Quebec for a year, a nationwide debate on why Canada is the only country other than Cuba and North Korea to ban private insurance and private care has finally broken out.


At 3/24/2009 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TORONTO - A letter from the Moncton Hospital to a New Brunswick heart patient in need of an electrocardiogram said the appointment would be in three months. It added: "If the person named on this computer-generated letter is deceased, please accept our sincere apologies."

The patient wasn't dead, according to the doctor who showed the letter to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. But there are many Canadians who claim the long wait for the test and the frigid formality of the letter are indicative of a health system badly in need of emergency care.

Americans who flock to Canada for cheap flu shots often come away impressed at the free and first-class medical care available to Canadians, rich or poor. But tell that to hospital administrators constantly having to cut staff for lack of funds, or to the mother whose teenager was advised she would have to wait up to three years for surgery to repair a torn knee ligament.

The average Canadian family pays about 48 percent of its income in taxes each year, partly to fund the health care system. Rates vary from province to province, but Ontario, the most populous, spends roughly 40 percent of every tax dollar on health care, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The system is going broke, says the federation, which campaigns for tax reform and private enterprise in health care.

It calculates that at present rates, Ontario will be spending 85 percent of its budget on health care by 2035. "We can't afford a state monopoly on health care anymore," says Tasha Kheiriddin, Ontario director of the federation. "We have to examine private alternatives as well."


At 3/24/2009 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the 1960s, Castonguay chaired a Canadian government committee studying health reform and recommended that his home province of Quebec — then the largest and most affluent in the country — adopt government-administered health care, covering all citizens through tax levies.

The government followed his advice, leading to his modern-day moniker: "the father of Quebec medicare." Even this title seems modest; Castonguay's work triggered a domino effect across the country, until eventually his ideas were implemented from coast to coast.

Four decades later, as the chairman of a government committee reviewing Quebec health care this year, Castonguay concluded that the system is in "crisis."

"We thought we could resolve the system's problems by rationing services or injecting massive amounts of new money into it," says Castonguay. But now he prescribes a radical overhaul: "We are proposing to give a greater role to the private sector so that people can exercise freedom of choice."

What would drive a man like Castonguay to reconsider his long-held beliefs? Try a health care system so overburdened that hundreds of thousands in need of medical attention wait for care, any care; a system where people in towns like Norwalk, Ontario, participate in lotteries to win appointments with the local family doctor.

Years ago, Canadians touted their health care system as the best in the world; today, Canadian health care stands in ruinous shape.


At 3/24/2009 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In "Die in Britain, survive in U.S.," the cover article of the February 2005 issue of The Spectator, a British magazine, James Bartholomew details the downside of Britain's universal health care system.

Among women with breast cancer, for example, there's a 46 percent chance of dying from it in Britain, versus a 25 percent chance in the United States. "Britain has one of worst survival rates in the advanced world," writes Bartholomew, "and America has the best."

If you're a man diagnosed with prostate cancer, you have a 57 percent chance of it killing you in Britain. In the United States, the chance of dying drops to 19 percent. Again, reports Bartholomew, "Britain is at the bottom of the class and America is at the top."

Explains Bartolomew: "That is why those who are rich enough often go to America, leaving behind even private British health care." The reason isn't that we sue more in America and scare doctors into efficiency, or that our medical schools are better. It's more simple than that. "In America, you are more likely to be treated," writes Bartholomew, "and going back a stage further, you are more likely to get the diagnostic tests which lead to better treatment."


And if we measure a health-care system by how well it serves its sick citizens, American medicine excels. Five-year cancer survival rates bear this out. For leukemia, the American survival rate is almost 50 percent; the European rate is just 35 percent. Esophageal carcinoma: 12 percent in the United States, 6 percent in Europe. The survival rate for prostate cancer is 81.2 percent here, yet 61.7 percent in France and down to 44.3 percent in England—a striking variation.


Don't Fall Prey to Propaganda: Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality are Unreliable Measures for Comparing the U.S. Health Care System to Others

At 3/24/2009 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't want to be a wet blanket, but news stories I read about the incident said a helicopter did come to take her out, but since the subdural hematoma that eventually killed her was slow developing, she didn't feel bad enough to want to go to the hospital. When she collapsed later, to much damage had occurred to allow her to be saved. the post ends up kind of like Dan Rather's claim for his TANG story about Bush, "fake, but accurate

At 3/24/2009 6:33 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I was going to comment when I saw jdace's comment.

Although, I've heard no mention of her refusing a helicopter and one wouldn't have been called. She smacked her head but refused further medical care after being checked out at the scene. They wouldn't have called a helicopter for that. By the time she developed and felt the effects of the hematoma, no helicopter would have been able to save her. The damage is done.

Socialized medicine has plenty of problems, but it doesn't seem to have played a hand in this particular death.

At 3/25/2009 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It was an ambulance that came to the ski slopes to see her, but because she felt fine they didn't take her to the hospital nor did they really examine her. This isn't really relevant to her outcome, though.

After this is where things get tricky. The first hospital she went to did not have a trauma unit so they took her to a second hospital. With the kind of injury she had, it was likely that to save her the first hospital would have needed a CT scan and then the surgical backup to be sure they were OK when relieving the pressure of the blood on her brain. The first hospital had neither of these, and the transport to the next hospital was much too slow.

Two things could have altered her outcome:

1. If the first hospital had had capabilities and a CT scan that are commonplace at hospitals in the U.S. (I believe there are around 250 CT scanners in all of Canada).

2. If the transportation had been faster in getting her to the hospital that could have treated her.

Canada chose not to spend their money on CT scanners for the first hospital and not to spend money on the rapid transport. Those two things would not have guaranteed her survival, but her odds would have dramatically improved.


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