Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Alberta Can Afford Not To Wait

Shorter waiting times for health care has become the new "chicken in every pot" promise of politicians across the land.

Alberta has actually done it by contracting out some of the intake to private clinics, and people couldn't be happier out there:

Waiting times for hip and knee replacements have been slashed in Alberta for patients in a pilot project who hit the operating table 11 weeks after the first referral to an orthopedic surgeon rather than enduring the usual 19½ months in the queue.

The average wait for a first orthopedic consultation dropped to six weeks from 35 weeks, according to an interim report on the program released yesterday.

In the project, which sends patients through a central-intake system and has its own doctors and surgical space, the average wait for surgery after the first consultation has plummeted to 4.7 weeks from 47 weeks.

And the average hospital stay has shrunk to 4.3 days from 6.2 days.

This is what we all want, no? People are getting the surgery they need and back on their feet ASAP.

Ah, but you see, it's only possible because Alberta is rolling around in all that oil money:

There's absolutely nothing controversial there," said Bas Masri, an orthopedic surgeon in Vancouver who is also secretary of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association.

But, he said, the project does highlight something Alberta has that other provinces do not: money.

And, according to Bob McMurtry, who was Roy Romanow's chief adviser on the Royal Commission on Health, it also demonstrates Alberta's "can-do attitude."

"It's a place where innovation is welcome; where new ideas are good," said Dr. McMurtry, who is now an adviser to the bone and joint institute and who teaches at the University of Western Ontario in London.

And this is why the Canada Health Act's most zealous defenders are frightened, despite this article's generally positive tone. The same people who defend the medicare monopoly are often the same people who despise Alberta as a hotbed of social and economic reactionism. And yet it is Alberta that is in the vanguard of progress here.

Alberta has managed to cut waiting times within the public system significantly by cooperating with the private clinics while not requiring patients to spend their own money.

So instead of following Alberta's example, they'll condemn it as an another example of Alberta not sharing its wealth. Instead of balancing their own chequebooks to pay for the same system in their own provinces, they'll demand an NEP-style wealth redistribution instead.

Source: Globe and Mail


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how much wealth a province needs to contract out, but most provinces with the exception of NB, contract out to a private, for-profit clinics all the time for a particular, medically necessary procedure that only women can take advantage of.

Another Sean said...

to anonymous:
I would suggest that the medical proceedure that only women can take advantage of is *not* "medically mecessary". It is, however, covered by health care.
Presonally, I think that said proceedure should be de-insured. If the act that resulted in the requirement of the proceedure was consentual then this proceedure should be treated more like conmetic surgery...