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Quebec’s health care system rotting

by Archives March 18, 2008

The state of Quebec’s health care system has always been a hot topic for debate, and even more so since Canada’s Liberal government decreased in 1994 by 40 per cent its health care budget.
In our province’s hospitals and clinics, there is a serious lack of supplies, and staff is perpetually underpaid. The problem, contrary to what some analysts might lead you to believe, is not that Quebec is unable to produce competent and professional medical graduates. Instead, our hospitals, clinics and health care centre working conditions are overly stressful and to say the least, unpleasant.
Nurses frequently work for more than 24 hours in a row in overcrowded hospitals, overseeing the well being of dozens of demanding patients.
Working in the same environment, many doctors choose to offer their services abroad. In the United States, medical employees are paid more money to take care of fewer, wealthier patients, whereas here in Quebec, they receive income from the government to serve a greater number of patients.
The situation is not easy for patients either. Let’s say you wake up in the morning with a terrible flu, you’re shivering and feverish. To have the opportunity to talk to a doctor, get a prescription, and get home to rest before lunchtime, you would have to get up before six in the morning and stand in line in front of the medical clinic’s door to keep your priority until the staff lets you in. It has come to the point where we find it normal that sick people have to wait outside for half an hour in our freezing winter weather just to get a cough syrup ordinance. Would this situation be different if there were more employees to take care of patients and run the clinics properly? The short answer is yes.
Treating patients on a priority basis is also obviously problematic, as it does not respond to our society’s ethical standards. Because of our mix of private and public clinics, Quebec’s health care system can serve you either very quickly or very slowly. Sure, if you suffer from pneumonia you should get taken care of before the pharyngitis patient. And the broken ankle should get treated before the neck ache. It’s only logical. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.
It seems that the golden rule of today’s health care system is this: the more money you’re willing to give, the faster you’ll get treated. If your doctor says you have to have a knee operation before you will be able to walk again, you’ll have to get an MRI first. However, the waiting list for such seemingly trivial procedures can be very long if you choose to be treated in a public hospital. The only way to speed through the process would be to visit a private clinic and pay up to $600. Thus, the quality and speed of the service you’ll receive is often proportional to the numbers of zeros you’ll write on your check, rather than being a reflection of the seriousness of your health need.
More and more doctors are also switching from public to private, devoting themselves to the service of the upper class. The waiting lists for private clinics will thus only get even longer, and Quebecers will remain unsatisfied.
For all this though, our health care system in Quebec is far better than many others abroad. Despite its lack of staff and its inability to treat all patients as equals, you can always get an appointment, a prescription, and finally get better, even if it might take some time. All we need is a little improvement.

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