Wait times for surgery and diagnostic scans are a continuing problem in B.C., and pressure on health care system is increasing. (Black Press files)

LETTERS: Doctors speak out on surgical wait times for B.C. patients

‘Governments know they will lose private clinic lawsuit’

Re: Private health care crackdown touches painful nerve (B.C. Views, Aug. 5).

Congratulations Tom Fletcher on your excellent article on private health care. As a physician who has been working in the Canadian system for almost 30 years now, I shake my head in disbelief in the state of the medical system of this First World country. The examples of poor administration, poor governance and general poor delivery of services to the population as a whole are legion.

The waiting times for specialist appointments are beyond comprehension in certain localities – one year for dermatology and two for psychiatry, three months for general and orthopaedic surgery, and then another three to six months for the actual surgical procedures in Kamloops at the moment (to quote some examples that I am fully aware of). There are no family practitioners available for more than 20,000 patients in Kamloops. I could go on and on.

The provincial government should hang its head in shame at the treatment they have meted out to Dr. Brian Day. Of course we know why, and that is that they know that they are going to lose the case, so “let’s hide our head in the sand for as long as we can.” They lost a similar case in Quebec some years ago.

Private health care is here to stay whether you like it or not. We are all aware of the “private clinics” all over the country that are billing private fees, but “oh no” says the government, no private health care is allowed in this country, see the Canada Health Act of 1984. If you phone the College of Physicians and Surgeons and ask them what they think, the standard reply is that they have nothing to do with it, and you should rather phone the B.C. Medical Association (Doctors of B.C.). What a cop-out, to use an old but descriptive term!

Patients in many countries in Europe (see the list quoted by Tom Fletcher) are very satisfied with their own, two tier or other system.

If we are forced into a private health care system, we are going to go the way of the USA, which is of course what none of us want. Let’s start by at least discussing a private care two-tier system (or any other system) where everybody wins.

Anything is better than what we have currently.

David V.B. Smith MD, Princeton

• • •

I am an optometrist in Port Alberni. From a Vancouver Island perspective, wait times for cataract surgery have ballooned to 13-16 months, compared to about four months only a few years ago.

For a number of years, patients had the option to have cataract surgery done at the Seafield Surgical Centre in Nanaimo. Those with means went for it and it kept the wait list reasonable for everyone else. The surgeons are only given one day per week to operate so it’s not like the private facility was “stealing” the surgeons from the public system.

I’m not sure what led to the centre not renewing the leases of the ophthalmologists in that centre, but we are certainly feeling it. Currently, there are two centres in Victoria we have access to, for those who have means and are willing to travel.

The thought that these will be prohibited from providing surgery for my patients is absurd – I’m already fielding weekly calls from patients who are begging for me to help them jump the queue.

Dr. Shaun F. Golemba, Port Alberni

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