Canada can’t afford social distancing apathy
Twenty-two doctors from Saskatchewan recently went to Edmonton for a curling event. Soon afterwards 11 of them were diagnosed with having the coronavirus.
Aside from pondering why doctors of all people would travel to a curling event during a pandemic, ask yourself this question – when was the last time you went with a large group of people to an event and heard a few days later that half the people from your group were sick from it?
ABC News reported the average person with the coronavirus spreads it to twice as many people as they would the common flu. The National Post recently reported on new research that suggests nine out of 10 infections in China were transmitted by people who didn’t show any symptoms.
To be clear, I’m not a doctor. But it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see this virus is quite contagious. Our economy can’t sit on the sidelines for long, but in the short term, Canadians should listen to social distancing directives, especially around at-risk people.
In fact, our health care system is ill-prepared for a serious outbreak.
Reflect on what’s been happening in Italy. The small European country has over 86,000 cases and the death count regularly rises by hundreds each day. Although this virus originated in China, Italy now leads the world with over 9,000 deaths.
Their health care system is bursting at the seams. If the coronavirus hits Canada with the same intensity it would be a nightmare. Heading into such a scenario, our system is arguably less prepared than Italy’s was.
This past January there were media stories about hospitals in Ontario being so overcrowded that patients were being treated on stretchers in the hallways. Other provinces have struggled with this problem as well.
In British Columbia, the province’s Anesthesiologists’ Society released a report in 2019 noting that there were 85,468 patients waiting for surgery at the end of 2017-18. The report notes, “The most common government benchmark is a wait of 26 weeks (or about six months).”
As British Columbia just put all elective surgeries on hold, many waiting lists will balloon even further. And behind those waiting list stats are often people like Jenny Mckenzie, who had to live with immense pain before her hip surgery.
Stats from the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD) show that for every one thousand people, Canada has fewer hospital beds and doctors than Italy. Canada could have more beds and doctors, but our governments ration what they provide the public while blocking most forms of private health care.
The Fraser Institute examined the OECD’s data and calculated that Canada’s government-run health care system ranked near the bottom of 28 developed nations, when it came to both acute care beds and doctors for every one thousand people. Thankfully, we were middle of the pack when it came to nurses per capita.
As Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein recently pointed out, health care is the policy problem Canadian politicians should have been focused on fixing over the past couple decades.
When Canada gets through this, and we will, our elected officials need to put meaningful reform on the agenda. Governments cannot continue to block private health care options while rationing health care to Canadians – doing so could leave us in a vulnerable position again in the future.
But for now, everyone needs to do their part. Our health care system can’t afford otherwise.
Colin Craig is the President of SecondStreet.org, a new Canadian think tank.
This article was published in the March 27, 2020 edition of the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Edmonton Sun and Calgary Sun.
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