The idealism of single payer or universal systems that now are in operation operate on a few…

I am a victim of Canada’s broken health care system. It’s supposed to be universal, but it isn’t. We also have one of the most diverse populations in the world, and this fact feeds into the problems with this system.

In Canada, access to health care is decided by politicians and bureaucrats, based on policies of favouritism towards certain ethnicities (particularly Natives and Blacks, who receive lavish taxpayer funding for parallel “race only” health care clinics and treatments) non-citizen refugee claimants (who receive coverage denied to Canadian citizens), age groups (youth is favoured, seniors are at the back of the line). Rampant discrimination occurs against patients with illnesses which carry a stigma, such as mental illness, addiction, and illnesses that are blamed on “life choices” (like obesity). Patients suffering from the “wrong” ailments are flatly denied treatment, or if they can find treatment, it’s the first thing cut off in the next round of budget cuts.

Our health care is not universal because they refuse to cover basic things like dentistry, physiotherapy, eye care, and reconstructive surgeries. So a senior on a fixed income who just had a hip replacement has to pay out of pocket for their physiotherapy afterwards. For the few on measly government prescription drug plans, many standard drugs aren’t covered.

I call myself a “victim” of this system because I’ve had (or have) two health conditions which are discriminated against. I used to be morbidly obese and had life threatening health issues because of my weight. I had no choice — lose the weight or die of a heart attack or diabetes. The wait time in my province of Ontario for this surgery was 5 years because the government places a low priority on treating “lifestyle” conditions. I ended up being sent to the US for surgery. They only covered the cost of the surgery itself. I was left holding the bag for travel (three trips back and forth for pre-op testing), hotel fees (I had to stay in a local hotel for 2 weeks after the surgery in case of complications), and meals. This totaled over $10,000 and I was driven into bankruptcy as a result).

I was blown away by how clean and luxurious the American hospital was, compared to the filthy overcrowded barns they call hospitals up here. In our dirty, run down hospitals, patients are routinely forced to lie on stretchers in hallways for days because most of the beds in the hospital were closed due to funding cuts.

Before I lost the weight, I was routinely denied treatment for everything from depression to a knee injury I suffered at work. Speaking of being denied treatment, I also have a mental health issue. You’d think my primary care doctor would be a psychiatrist, but no. I’m forced to use a family doctor or walk in clinics. There aren’t any mental health clinics or psychiatrists in the west part of Toronto, where I live. Psychologists aren’t covered by the “public” health care system. Toronto is Canada’s biggest city with the smallest population of physicians and specialists (6 month wait to see one of those). However, we have plenty of Native only and Black only clinics, more for them than anyone else. The publicly funded rehab centres are all staffed by Natives and the therapy is all Native themed.

If a mentally ill person has a crisis, they have two choices: get treated worse than an animal and locked away in a torture cell in an ER for days without food, water or toilet facilities, or get tazered and a bullet in the head from a cowardly cop. Or, they can be kicked out on the streets like the many who were turned away from Toronto homeless shelters last night in -32 (C/F) windchill. That sums up Canada’s health care for the mentally ill.

And if you think it’s bad now, it’s only getting worse. The Premier of Ontario is trumpeting their new “free drugs for children” policy which starts today (Jan 1). So piles of money will be thrown at healthy children who may get sniffles or ear infections, and their wealthy parents with drug plans who can afford to pay for their kid’s meds themselves. Meanwhile, seniors and the disabled (like me) who can’t work, have chronic and expensive health problems, and often have to choose between groceries and medications are given nothing. So funding for the vulnerable is being plundered to give yet another handout to the rich. To add insult to injury, Justin Trudeau is throwing Canada’s doors open to disabled immigrants and elderly, sick relatives of immigrants.

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