Canadian health care misstated

Dr. Francis Pasley
Letters, Burlington Free Press, May 2, 2011

I am a medical doctor, semi-retired living in Vermont and having a limited practice. Prior to moving to Vermont two and a half years ago I practiced full time, dividing my practice between the Detroit area in Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, an hour drive from Detroit. Thus I have a substantial personal knowledge of medical practice in the USA and Canada.

I have been distressed to hear opinions by Vermont medical professionals and local conservatives about the poor care available in Canada, especially long waiting times for care, and the negative feelings of physicians who have moved here from Canada about the experiences they have had practicing medicine in Canada, suggesting no one would stay there by choice.

I moved to Vermont for family reasons and not to leave practice in Ontario, Canada. Indeed if I were younger I would far rather return to practice in Canada. Caring for patients without having to worry about their ability to afford medical care far outweighed any negatives. I knew doctors who chose to practice in Canada rather than the United States for the same reason. Some who trained in the U.S. and elected to locate in Canada.

In my opinion the waiting list issue is manufactured by people who wish to discredit a system that cares well for everyone with some minor inconveniences rather than one that denies care to millions while admittedly providing exceptional care to those well able to afford it. For those with urgent needs and serious medical problems, in my experience the care in Canada is equally exceptional and prompt.

The issues relating to medical care in every country are enormous and to raise concerns about waiting or the personal preferences of a few physicians trivializes it. We must rather decide what sort of society we wish to live in, what level of support we owe to all in our society, to whom we choose to deny adequate nutrition or healing efforts so that the privileged will be denied nothing or whether we choose to provide basic adequate sustenance to all. Hopefully we will choose the latter and then face the difficult task of defining what represents basic adequate sustenance.

Dr. Francis Pasley of Williston is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program.