Monday, July 6, 2009

Healthcare system better brace for the boomers

If you're a hospital administrator, your life is about to get even more stressful.

Boomers have pretty much remained uninformed about the Canadian healthcare system.

Until now.

Most, being relatively healthy, haven't needed much in the way of healthcare, beyond an occasional visit to the family doctor or a walk-in clinic. Most collide with a hospital while accompanying their elderly parents, and it is almost always a big surprise.

We've been told all of our lives how lucky we are to live in Canada with its universal healthcare system, and that is true. We will never go bankrupt because we have a chronic condition or require expensive treatment. For that, I am grateful.

But how do people judge the quality of services delivered by this system? The old dictum about first impressions is relevant, and those impressions are created by emergency room wait times, and the time it takes to be treated or admitted.

In our local hospitals here in southern Ontario, emergency room wait times are ridiculously out of line with expectations. They range from an average 6.3 hours (Georgetown) to 24.4 hours (Trillium Health Centre), according to a recent Toronto Star article. Can you imagine waiting for an entire day to be treated? And that's an average, so it can take longer.

The Wait Time Alliance surveys such things. They found that, nationally, the average time from presenting oneself for treatment to being discharged, if admission to hospital is not required, is 8.9 hours. If admission is required, it will take an average 23.5 hours for you to find yourself in an in-patient bed.

They found that the median wait time for curative cancer care is 46 days. There's plenty more in their PDF report.

I'd bet that few who have not encountered this would guess that it would take anything like that long.

The number of those who have encountered it is growing rapidly, and boomers are not deferential like their parents. They are accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it, and view healthcare as a service they have paid for. You can bet that we are not far off the day when the biggest generation will be voting politicians out of office over this issue.

As for the argument over 2-tier healthcare, we already have it for anyone who can get to a U.S. hospital and pay the bill, and that is happening with greater frequency.

No comments:

Post a Comment