Sunday, 27 May 2012

Dear Canada's Medical Doctors: Why Don't You Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is?

Apparently you - and undoubtedly others who make their living in the health care industry- are opposed to the removal of medical benefits made available to refugees that Canadians don't receive; having to pay for them out of pocket in part or in whole.

Good on ya!  It's nice to see you actually do care about the welfare of others and are not solely in the medical field for the money.

But talk is cheap. And so is moral grandstanding.  Canada's health care system is not.  This is due to your considerable salaries and escalating office budgets in a time when advances in health care technology should be making things cheaper.

For the government it's all about costs.  These cuts to refugees' medical benefits will allegedly save Canadian tax payers $100 million over five years.  I agree, it's a small sum compared to the overall costs of maintaining a universally accessible health care system that it shouldn't be a concern.  But with ever increasing national health care costs it seems any place where costs can be slashed, no matter how small, is needed to maintain the overall integrity of the system.

Being doctors I understand your opposition.  Any cuts to health care benefits or services that will prevent or discourage anyone from seeking immediate, proper medical care offends your sense of morality and professional ethical code.

So a balance needs to be struck between the government's need to control health care spending and your desire to service the health care needs of your fellow man and I think I found the solution.

Work pro bono.

For refugees that is.  And cover all their medical expenses while you're at it.  This means that a dentist, for example, will work on a refugee's teeth for free and pay for any other of the refugee's necessary dental expenses out of his or her pocket billing no one in the process.

Everybody wins!  Refugees' medical benefits are restored, the government gets to save it's $100 million over five years, and - above all - your desire to help people gets a steroid shot in the arm with the satisfaction that you did it at great personal financial sacrifice proving that you're not in the medical field for the money.

But I know you won't do that or even consider it because at the end of the day all of Canada's doctors are really small businessmen at heart.  Patients are not patients.  They're clients and the more clients you see, the more bills are mailed out, the more money goes into your bank accounts.

Isn't this what it's all about?  If refugees know that their medical expenses are covered by taxpayers they're more likely to grace one of your offices and become another client.  People who have to pay out of pocket are more likely to delay a trip to the doctor's office if not avoid it altogether.  That means less money to you.

I don't say this as a chastisement.  Like all humans you are creatures of self-interest and I appreciate that.  But let's be honest here.  This is about protecting your client base and business model at other people's expense.  It costs you nothing to protest and moral grandstand for the news media.  You come off looking like saints but you do so at almost no personal sacrifice on your part.

How about you turn the volume up to 11 and agree to service refugees health care needs at no cost to the taxpayer?  If you really are in the medical field because you want to help people then the money shouldn't matter that much.  How costly will it be to you to service refugees pro bono anyway?  It's not like your entire practice is devoted to servicing refugees is it?  I'm sure you can slip in a pro bono refugee medical case here and there.  If $100 million over five years isn't going to break the bank of Canada's health care system I doubt working pro bono for refugees and covering their medical expenses isn't going to break yours either.  How about that?  Your paid well enough already so I'm sure you can afford it.


Alain said...

I could not agree more. They are free to offer their services for free. Of course we won't see that, since that is not what it is about. They want the rest of us to pay.

Anonymous said...

That's pretty hostile towards doctors.

I am convinced that Canada's refugee system is broken, that we are letting in large numbers of bogus refugees, and that we are letting in more than can be supported/integrated into Canadian society. We must reduce the numbers we accept and change the laws to prevent MV Sun Sea-style invasions. However, once we do bring in a refugee, he/she is considered a vulnerable person and must be taken care of. They even get free medications and dental care in UN refugee camps - to fail this standard is unacceptable.

And what about doctors? They believe that all people are equal. Doctors all over the world strive to provide access to healthcare for all through organizations like Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontiers) and Red Cross. I respect doctors in Canada and don't think they earn incredible amounts. For example, in my province a walk-in clinic doctor is paid only $30 per visit, which also has to cover office rent, front-end staff, insurance, etc., not to mention their student loans from long years of med school. I'm sure many doctors would work pro-bono, but it's not fair to expect them to. In a hospital, the front-end staff can't make this type of decision, and a busy doctor hires receptionists for a reason - he/she must use valuable time to see patients in appointments, not listen to stories about money. Doctors certainly can't be expected to pay for their patients' drugs out-of-pocket.