Dr. Brian Day @DrBrianDay Twitter

  • Past President Canadian Medical Association
  • Past President Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • Honourary Associate Professor University of British Columbia
  • 2014 Doctors of BC Don Rix Leadership Award

Health-care system isn't 'the problem.' It's the long waits

Jan 25, 2010

The Province

By Jon Ferry

Mixed martial-arts superstar Brock Lesnar was wrong to slam the Canadian health-care system, but there’s a grain of truth in what the muscle-bound American motormouth says.

Just ask outspoken Vancouver orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Day, otherwise known as Dr. Profit for his vigorous support of private medicine.

Day told me Saturday that our health-care system suffers from a host of ailments, including skyrocketing costs that are draining taxpayer funds from education and other social services.

The government-run monopoly also suffers from a shortage of doctors and a lack of the latest medical technology, he said. Which is why high-profile Canadians often go to the U.S. for treatment.

But our basic health care is of high quality, even when compared with much of that south of the border. And Day took issue with Lesnar’s claim, after a Manitoba hunting trip, that being treated in Canada was like being in a Third World country.

“If he’d have said we’re one of the worst of the developed countries, he would have been accurate,” said Day, a former president of the Canadian Medical Association.

“But to say a Third World country is inaccurate.”

One of the worst of the developed countries? Yes. And Day says the main problem is that our health system, unlike those in European countries with a similar standard of living, remains plagued by long waiting lists.

“Once you get into a Canadian health institution, once you get the access, it [the care] is usually very good,” he said. “The problem we have is delays in getting people to the help they need.”

For instance, Day says, a recent survey found two-thirds of children waiting to get into B.C. Children’s Hospital are not being treated in a medically acceptable time frame.

The government’s current answer to soaring health costs, which now consume about half the B.C. budget, is to limit access to treatment. But that simply means longer waits. And, as Day says, patients who wait deteriorate.

The solution? First, we should change the way we fund hospitals so as to reward, not penalize, those who treat more patients.

Second, we should let everybody, not just the lucky few, have the choice to go to private clinics, such as the two Day operates.

“No one can ever provide me with an argument that it’s unethical or illegal to spend your own after-tax dollars on your health care,” he noted.

I agree with him. Even Cuba now has private care. And I’ve never understood why, under our weird health laws, you can pay to get your car fixed, but not your knee. For that you have to wait, despite the pain.

Third, we should jump on the medical-tourism band-wagon and encourage people from around the world to come here for treatment.

“I would love to see a Mayo Clinic North built in downtown Vancouver that would generate revenue for the economy in B.C.,” Day said.

Our health system is bloated and atrophied. It needs a swift kick to get its blood flowing again — just not from the likes of Lesnar.