This was originally posted on May 21, 2007 but is just as relevant now. Republished from the Psychlinks blog archive.

The sad state of Canada's health care system: A rant
by David J. Baxter, PhD

This was inspired by a reaction to a post at the Psychlinks Forum about health care and mental health. At moments like this, I feel like Albert Finney screaming "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" out the window.

"Why are doctors in Canada always in such a rush? Do we need more doctors? More nurses?"

Yes. We need more of both. You can thank 12 years of abject mismanagement of our nation by the Jean Chretien and Paul Martin Liberals for that. They cut back on health care expenditures, downloaded the costs to the provinces, and the provinces slashed budgets, closed hospitals, fired nurses, and drove doctors out of the country. Here in Ontario, we had the Mike Harris government laying off nurses and five years later trying to bribe them to come back from the US or other provinces when they "suddenly" discovered we had a desperate shortage. Doctors also left in droves, either out of the province or out of the country or out of the profession, and now the ones remaining are so overworked they're beginning to physically collapse under the strain.

This isn't a problem with the medical profession. This is absolutely and entirely a situation created by short-sighted opportunistic politicians whose sole interest was in window-dressing ("look how much money we've been able to save!") and getting their sorry asses re-elected. Now in Ontario we can look forward to mass retirements of our existing nurses over the next five years or so - the governments are very aware this is coming but is anyone actually planning ahead and trying to do something to fill the future shortages? Of course not. That would require vision and a modicum of intelligence, something almost universally lacking in our politicians.

"When I do go to the doctor I wait and wait and then I am lucky if the doctor will talk with me for two minutes. Recently I was at a specialist's office and there were actually signs that said not to mention more than one problem per visit."

I also have seen those signs. Again, this is a function of unacceptable overwork of our existing doctors and an OHIP fee schedule that doesn't even begin to keep pace with inflation. (Psychologists don't bill OHIP, by the way, so this isn't a personal axe I'm grinding.) We hear about physicians making enormous salaries but these are not our family physicians or GPs - those are specialists, surgeons, etc.

The family doctor is a disappearing breed on the verge of extinction unless somebody somewhere acts to reduce the appalling stress - emotionally, phsyically, and financially - placed on their shoulders by our unbelievably stupid and toally self-serving politicians. Increasingly, family physicians and new medical students are going into other less stressful and/or more financially rewarding specialties - and the line-ups in medical clinics, urgent care clinics, or emergency waiting rooms continue to grow.