Sunday, September 6, 2009

Della Reese and Dr. Drake

I've heard it said that lots of ill people go the the United States seeking health care but no American ever leaves. Not true. I can recall the American singer Della Reese coming to London, Ontario, and going to University Hospital in order to be operated on by Dr. Charles Drake. Reese credited Drake with saving her life when he operated on her brain aneurysm.

Later Reese rewarded the community by holding a concert at which $40,000 was raised for the Dr. Charles Drake research fund. The entire event was a big deal here in London and such a fuss was made that I can still clearly recall the event. Reese's decision stirred up a lot of civic pride.

Do I think that Della Reese could have received the same treatment in the States? Yes, I think so. But, Dr. Drake was a brilliant doctor and University Hospital an excellent facility. She made a good choice. I doubt she could have done better.

Are there any other cases of Americans leaving the States for treatment? According to claims on Democratic Underground.com, the answer is yes. So many Americans seek medical care outside the U.S. that a term has been coined for it: medical tourism.

If you can believe the numbers, thousands and thousands of Americans are active medical tourists. Why? My guess is cost. According to the information on Democratic Underground.com, " . . . data show that heart surgery, which costs more than $50,000 in the United States, can be purchased for $20,000 in Singapore, for $12,000 in Thailand and between $3,000 and $10,000 in India." Reportedly the quality of the purchased medical treatment is excellent. (My mitral valve heart repair was done robotically using the da Vinci system and it was covered by my OHIP payments. It was financially painless.)

As a Canadian, I'm torn. I would not want a system like the one presently in place in the States. Because of my open heart surgery, I would have a difficult time getting insurance in the States. If I was lucky enough to get, it would be out of my financial reach.

The Canadian system is not perfect. Having worked at a newspaper for years, I have met a number of people who were having problems with the Canadian medical system. But, with many of my relatives living in the U.S., I know that Americans can have problems, too.

What is needed is a careful, thoughtful discussion. The time for debate is over. It should be clear that with 45 million uninsured Americans, the system needs more than an adjustment.

I quoted infant mortality rate numbers in an earlier post. Not surprisingly, these numbers are suspect. And that is the problem with a debate. One-upmanship becomes paramount. We may even throw about numbers just because they prove our point. We may not look carefully at what the numbers truly represent.

When I was born, I was a small bundle of joy that cost my parents another small bundle but not a joyous one. If I had been born just days later, my delivery would have been covered by Windsor Medical. I believe, and I am going by memory here, that the doctors in Windsor, Ontario, in the late '40s banded together to form Windsor Medical and make medical treatment affordable to all.

When the government stepped in with its plan, Windsor Medical came to an end. I've often wondered if Windsor Medical was a superior system. I don't know and Google doesn't seem to have the answer either.
For all its problems, and it does have problems, read what it was like when my daughter gave birth just days ago right her in London, Ontario.

1 comment:

  1. A lot of supposition in this article, but no real facts. However, as I am active in the medical tourism industry (ExotiqAdventures.com) I can assure you that it is not just Americans who are going overseas for treatment.

    The fact is, medical facilities and treatment in Asia are far superior to those we get in the so-called 'advanced west'.

    There is no waiting time for treatment, except for some of the more complex procedures. The hospitals are superb, with the latest equipment and technology. And the staff are compassionate and professional. I live in Australia and I am entitled to free medical under the veterans administration, but I will still travel to Thailand for medical treatment if I ever need top quality help.