Health care system gets a B-minus

Agelina Horswill’s letter was a moving account of how her life was saved by our universal health care system.

Agelina Horswill’s letter (“Health Care’s Bright Side,” January 9, 2013) was a moving account of how her life was saved by our universal health care system. I agree with her that we are fortunate and, as she commented, we still have to improve our services. It sparked my curiousity: How does Canada compare with similar countries in terms of our “health care report card?”

According to the most current statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), we still are one of the better countries in the world in terms of our public expenditure on health. Per capita, we spend about the same as France, Germany and Great Britain (roughly $3,000 American dollars per person per/year), all countries with almost the exact same life expectancy as us (80 years on average) and similar standards of living.

However, there are a few areas we really need to improve. We pay one of the highest costs for prescription drugs in the world. Our waiting times are increasing and are some of the worst in the OECD. Hospital discharge rates are pretty meager; per 1,000 population we see 84 discharges compared to 263 for France, 237 for Germany, and 138 for Great Britain. Does this mean we are simply healthier than these other countries so we don’t need to visit the hospital? Not really. We have higher rates of heart disease than any of them, for example. We share roughly the same amount of deaths from cancer as these countries as well (about 200 deaths per 100,000 population). Are we just full of miracle doctors who keep us out of the hospital? That’s hard to believe considering that we have roughly two doctors for every 1,000 people in Canada, while France and Germany have roughly three.

All in all, we certainly can kiss our lucky stars we’re not in some third world country (or the US for that matter) where the system is really dysfunctional for many people. I guess, after looking at the OECD stats, I’d have to give Canada a B-minus grade. Good, but needs improvement!

Josh Wapp