This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Meant To Benefit Canadians

Let's hear that again? Canada a potential destination for medical-tourism? That's a stretch, isn't it? Universal medicare and hospitalization within Canada is already stretched to its outer limits. And Canada is not in the business, like countries whose economies are struggling, in the business of making a reputation, let alone money, off the avails of surgical-medical expertise, therapies and state-of-the-art, precision equipment.

Canada has long waiting lists for certain surgical procedures. There is a shortage of medical experts in some quite particular disciplines. There exists, relative to other wealthy and developed countries of the world, a relative paucity of expensive diagnostic and surgical equipment. All complicated by the inexorability of a steadily aging population, requiring more hospital admissions and critical care.

But then, there are some that present the situation and the possibility that Canada might indeed open up to a different kind of medical-surgical treatment offered to foreigners suffering from unfortunate medical conditions. Apart from the occasional temporary visas issued to young children urgently requiring life-saving surgery or organ transplants from undeveloped countries through pure charity.

There are those who contend that simply because Canada is so relatively well endowed with the expertise of surgeons who have mastered new life-saving techniques in organ transplantation and surgical advances, that there is an obligation to share with others less fortunate than Canadians who may take advantage of such opportunities.

It's an argument that fails somewhat to convince, since in all instances, save for charity being extended to poor sufferers from abroad, non-Canadians seeking advanced medical-surgical treatment in Canada must pay their own way, and that way tends to be exceedingly expensive. Medical tourists going to countries like India and China experience a good level of satisfaction with their outcomes.

But costs associated with travelling there and other countries offering superior medical treatment in facilities not normally offered to their own populations, are relatively cost-effective to the medical tourist. It has become an industry, one that the travel and tourism industry itself has become lucratively associated with.

There are currently up to fifty countries of the world involved in offering medical tourism, where people may with relative ease, as long as they can pay the freight, receive joint replacement, cardiac surgery, dental and cosmetic surgeries, and surgeries that haven't been approved in their own countries like the MS 'liberation' procedure.

People willing to travel outside their own countries at a special rate tied up with surgical procedures must consider that the regulations and professional medical-school training may not equal the standards demanded in their countries of origin. That follow-up treatment and the drug protocol may prove to be problematical on their return home.

In Toronto the University Health Network representing multi-organ transplants appears to feel that since the medical professions' ultimate role is life-saving, it hardly matters whose lives are being saved, and the option to seek life-saving treatment should transcend borders. Doctors and patients from diverse places on the Globe make contact with the Toronto General for transplants, with patients bringing with them living donors.

But Canada's hospitals, its doctors, its medical-teaching universities are taxpayer-subsidized. There is a universal insurance plan for all Canadians paid out of general tax funds transferred to the provinces by the federal government, and individual provinces exact additional fees from families by way of an added tax in support of universal medicare.

Institutions and the benefits that flow from them are meant for the well-being of Canadians, acknowledging the odd exception for humanitarian purposes.

Even if a foreign patient is prepared to pay the entire cost of travel, the medical-surgical procedure and the follow up requirements, expert time and attention is taken away from Canadians, and operating rooms and hospital beds - already in short supply - are used for foreign, non-tax-paying individuals.

In the end, were this to be ome common practise in Canada, there is nothing particularly humanitarian about offering services to people from abroad. In essence, the services would be offered only to those who have the financial wherewithal.

It might benefit the health professionals by giving them more experience and enabling procedures to be streamlined, but this would occur under normal circumstances as procedures become more widely available.

Canada has, like most other countries, a problem acquiring enough donor organs to service the long waiting list of Canadians awaiting life-saving transplant operations. It makes little practical sense to complicate the issue even further by extending to non-Canadians the opportunity to travel on a visitor's visa for the purpose of acquiring surgery.

The issue is, if not a rare commodity, then at least one that is sufficiently difficult to obtain that its acquisition should be available to a narrow spectrum of beneficiaries; those who are citizens of the country, and who have paid their taxes in support of a universal education and medical care system meant to benefit Canadians.

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