An Afternoon of Polishing, Waxing, and Health Care
As I headed toward the waxing room at Granville Day Spa, I debated whether I could successfully question the young Korean woman about her health care. Was it culturally inappropriate? And what happened if she became particularly passionate about some health care injustice while shaping my eyebrows? But I'm rarely deterred by being inappropriate and eyebrows do grow back so I decided to give it a shot.
Yes, she had had problems with the health care system -- finally, a story about those long waits for health care in Canada. She had developed acne for which she saw a GP in a clinic without any waiting time. He prescribed birth control pills and suggested she wait to see if that helped. But she wanted to see a dermatologist and had to wait a few months to get in. When her turn finally came up to see the dermatologist, she couldn't remember the name of the referring GP and thought she would have had to go back to the clinic to find out. So she felt it was too much hassle and never saw the dermatologist. Her opinion was the Korean health care system was better.
I continued the discussion in the nail salon while I waited for my daughter's Royal Manicure/Pedicure to be finished. Since the young Waxing Lady was not a Canadian citizen, I asked both her and the woman working on my daughter whether they had been able to access the government Medical Services Plan right away upon their arrival in Canada. They both answered yes. Then they qualified that saying it took 3 months or maybe 6 months before immigrants were eligible for the program. Having looked into this for my own potential eligibility, I believe 3 months is the correct answer. And only for people lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residency.
As others in the salon heard what we were talking about, the discussion widened. Some complained about the Medical Services Plan not covering dental and orthodontics. The private extended health insurance (see Definitions) came up again, which can be provided by an employer or purchased individually. But even with private coverage there is a lot of dental work not fully covered. They began discussing the merits of going to Costa Rica for dental care and cosmetic surgery.
Someone else talked about their grandfather who had ended up on a bed in the hallway of a Canadian hospital for 3 days when it was established his cancer was terminal. (In interest of full disclosure, a friend of mine who works for the British Columbia Cancer Agency says there's no way that would actually occur.) If it is true, wow, that is indeed the worst thing I've heard about Canadian health care so far!
It is definitely true there is a serious shortage of hospital rooms in British Columbia. A few months ago there was an incident in which a hospital was so short of beds that they had to briefly accommodate emergency patients in the hospital's Tim Horton's coffee shop. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/03/01/bc-royal-columbian-tim-hortons.html .
It's kind of the equivalent of seeing patients at Denny's. Every time I pass a Tim Horton's now I think, "I'd like fries and an IV with that."
However, a young waitress/student in the salon had been in the hospital recently and had been quite satisfied. She had had extended coverage through her mother and had been in a private room --said the doctors had been very thorough; every possible test had been done.
Her waitress friend told me she made under $15,000 per year and thus qualified for both free premiums for the Medical Services Plan, as well as free extended health insurance. Another woman talked about the premiums she had to pay for the Medical Services Plan -- $168 quarterly for her and her children.
At one point, they started comparing their system to the system in the US. There was much squealing and wrinkling of noses over the assertion of one of the waitresses that some people in the US go bankrupt paying for care when they have serious illnesses. "Reeeeaally??!!!"
Same reaction when someone said that uninsured cancer patients go untreated -- horrified incredulity. I hadn't brought these subjects up but I clarified that if someone goes to an emergency room, the hospital is obliged to stabilize their condition. However, I gave the example of an uninsured woman who goes to the hospital with a lump in her breast -- The hospital is not obliged to provide follow up treatment.
When Beatrice's nail polish was finally dry, we all parted company with big goodbyes and heartfelt nice meeting yous. We all had learned something at the Granville Day Spa Health Care Seminar.