“Affordable” health care that gets paid for by somebody else is going to result in draconian cost-control measures, and reductions in services. It’s happening in Canada right now. When the budget gets tight, you don’t get your cataract surgery – regardless of whether you had an appointment. You can’t outsmart the laws of economics: price controls result in shortages.
Del Oxford is angry at a Liberal government whose cutback on cataract surgeries in Windsor postponed his wife Rose’s October surgery, right around the time the public learned about the staggering $1.1-billion bill for the cancelling two natural gas power plants.
“We blow $1.1 billion and people go blind,” an exasperated Oxford said of the call Rose, 61, received Oct. 8, just four days after her procedure at Windsor Regional Hospital’s Ouellette site had been booked. “One week you’ve got space, the next week you have no space. How does that happen?”
The explanation he received after making calls to various people at the hospital was that the number of cataract surgeries paid for by the province had been cut mid-way through the fiscal year and that the hospital was about 200 surgeries over budget.
This despite the fact that the demand for cataract surgeries is rising as the baby boomers hit retirement age, said Oxford, a retired Peel Region police officer who moved with Rose to Amherstburg in 2009.
“There’s even more demand and they’re cutting back,” he said, adding he doesn’t blame the hospital or the surgeon, opthalmologist Dr. Barry Emara. But he believes people who’ve paid taxes to the Ontario government all their lives should get prompt access to health care now they need it. “It’s like a car insurance company saying ‘We’ve had two many accidents this year, we’re cutting everyone off.’”
The problem, according to hospital CEO David Musyj, is that the number of procedures – when it comes to cataracts, hips replacements and knee replacements – is capped by the Health Ministry. And hospital officials (up until October, cataracts were done by Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital, which has since transferred cataracts to Windsor Regional) were scheduling surgeries based on the previous year’s cap of 5, 022. Then in September, they learned the cap for the fiscal year that started April 1 would be 4,849. In 2010, there were 5,412 procedures, he said. In a guest column published in today’s Windsor Star, Musyj said the cuts are due to the continuing rise in health care costs and governments looking for ways to cope with them.
“For Ontario, having health care consume close to 50 per cent of the provincial budget, facing an $11-billion operating deficit, a $260-billion debt, and spending 10 per cent of its annual revenues on financing of this debt, controlling health care costs is unavoidable.”