Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ontario's Socialized Health Care a 'Kuwait'ing Game

Ontario hospitals are so strapped for funds that some hospital executives have been forced to look elsewhere for funding. To Kuwait, for example. From the Globe and Mail:
A group of Canadian hospital executives is travelling to the Middle East in search of a solution to one of health care’s most vexing problems: how to find new sources of revenue when patient costs are straining the system.

Most of the officials on this week’s trip are looking to reach deals with the foreign governments to provide consulting services and training in exchange for cash to reinvest in their own facilities back home. However, a contentious deal that Toronto’s University Health Network reached last year with Kuwait is taking it one step further, allowing a small number of Kuwaiti patients to come here for complex cancer care.

UHN president and chief executive officer Bob Bell said the $75-million, five-year agreement, most of which involves consulting, is a way to reinvest in the health-care system and provide more funds for research, equipment and care at the three downtown Toronto hospitals that make up the network.

But other hospitals are shying away from offering to make treatment part of the package: They don’t like the optics of providing care to wealthy foreign patients when their institutions are struggling with lengthy queues.

No Kuwaitis have yet been treated here, Dr. Bell said in an interview, and a limited number will be treated, which he described as in the “tens of patients.”

“If we provide treatment to one foreign patient, our goal would be to provide treatment to at least two if not three Ontarians based on revenue from that,” Dr. Bell said. “It’s a sensitive issue, obviously, for Ontarians. They don’t want to think that anybody is ever going to displaced by an international patient.”...
Gee, ya think?

To recap: there was no cash in (the large downtown Toronto) hospital kitty for my colonoscopy (which had been booked a year in advance). However, if someone from Kuwait wants to come here for cancer care pronto, he/she can jump to the head of the line.

How bonkers is that?

Update: My letter:
Let me get this straight: a wealthy Kuwaiti is to be allowed to jump the queue and receive medical care in Ontario, but Ontarians who would like to pay extra to be able to do the same thing are not allowed to do so?

Are we so obsessed with keeping the system "fair" that we are unable to see the inconsistency, not to mention the sheer lunacy, in such an arrangement?

Here's a thought: How about affording Ontarians the same opportunities as Kuwaitis, thereby obviating the need for Ontario hospital executives to travel all the way to Kuwait, of all places, to drum up business?

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