The Doctor Shortage Problem

The Doctor Shortage Problem
Photo by Online Marketing / Unsplash

It's a rainy week in the Maritimes, which is fantastic timing.

In the middle of rampaging wildfires, Canada was in sore need of a good drenching to help take some of the toxic smoke out of the air. Being in the process of recovering from a nasty cold, I particularly appreciate being able to air out my home without irritating my lungs even further.

Being sick as a dog has brought up some interesting thoughts, though...probably as a result of the fever dreams. See, my province is in a little bit of a crisis right now, and I've recently become another one of the unfortunate souls getting caught in the mess.

My family doctor has recently retired.

That doesn't sound like too big of a deal on its face, and it honestly isn't. It's a little bit of a hassle for my prescriptions and the like, it means I have a few hoops to jump through, but care is still available. I can get help when I need it.

Given how cruddy my former doctor's office was about getting an appointment, I might even get through faster.

And besides, I'm on the waiting list for a new one...alongside tens of thousands of other people in my province.

We have a doctor and nursing shortage here, especially after the COVID-19 Pandemic ripped through our aging population like tissue paper. In spite of the repeated reporting of a big ol' budget surplus, my government has not lifted a finger to provide extra funding to improve working conditions and hire more staff for our hospitals.

They've even closed down Emergency Rooms after dark in some towns. Think about that. I sincerely hope people are able to avoid having heart attacks and strokes in the wee hours of the morning!

My province is run by the PC party- the oxymoronic 'Progressive Conservatives'. Like other provinces run by Tories, we've seen a lack of funding provided to our public healthcare, and a certain level of pressure to provide private healthcare options instead.

Doug Ford has been caught pulling the same crap over in Ontario.

Ontario’s shift to private health care will cost much, much more
Linda McQuaig writes, “Dramatic new numbers show privatized health care is more expensive than public health care.”

It's not a smart move. It's incredibly unpopular, and for good reason.

We are not the United States, our citizens are not used to having to pay private healthcare costs. In fact, here in Canada the man responsible for drafting our public healthcare system is lauded as a hero in our nation's history.

Rest in peace, Tommy Douglas. If you wouldn't mind, we'd love to see you come back to Earth for a moment just to kick some Tory backsides.

The Honourable Thomas Douglas
The Honourable Thomas “Tommy” Douglas is a prominent name in Canadian history; a respected visionary politician, his personal mission of making medical care available to everyone revolutionized the Canadian healthcare system.

People here don't want to get swamped with bills like you see in the United States. I personally know people who've been hit with invoices for thousands of dollars, all for relatively minor visits in American clinics.

My American friends would rather sit at home and self-monitor chest pains rather than call an ambulance and find out at the hospital that they just had gas. They'd prefer to risk having a heart attack because they literally can't afford the abundance of caution.

Guessing wrong can mean their savings are wiped out, or they go into debt.

We do not want that here. Especially because we're generally a law-abiding bunch, and we're able to read our country's legal code with regards to healthcare.

Withholding funds for provincial medical care and pushing for private options is literally illegal in Canada. Having private options is fine, of course...but only so long as access to public, tax-funded care is not impeded.

Constructing a financial barrier to medically necessary healthcare is not allowed here. It's also just plain morally reprehensible.

Canada Health Act
Federal laws of Canada

Apparently, my premier's approval rating has managed to sink this home, along with some not-remotely-veiled-threats from our Prime Minister's office. We're finally seeing the Maritimes start to work on this problem by improving licensing, hiring and working conditions for nurses and doctors.

We're trying to entice people into moving their practice here- including American doctors. Apparently quite a few are interested in migrating these days.

Between the overturning of Roe vs Wade and the restrictions and bans on gender affirming care, American doctors are fearful of losing their licenses or even facing jail time while practicing in certain states.

While most are simply seeking to jump from a red state over to a blue one, I'm sure there are a handful who just want to get out altogether.

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The shortage of healthcare providers is a huge problem here.

People need medical care, especially with the long-term complications that the pandemic has left us with. Our nurses and doctors are burnt out and exhausted, but we just can't afford to let them run out the clock and rest without replacements ready to take their shifts.

They're heroes. They save lives every day. We need to treat them better, get them better support, and make our little corner of the country a better place to work.

Medical care is a human right- or at least it should be. For-profit systems are an expensive way to deprive your citizens of their basic right to live, and that attitude has no place in the modern world.

Solidarity wins.