December 12, 2017 12:04 am
Updated: December 12, 2017 12:42 pm

Alex Pierson: Ontario health care has gone to the dogs

A patient's feet are seen through a hospital room door in the emergency department of the Toronto East General Hospital

(The Canadian Press)

Health care has gone to the dogs. My dog in particular.

Where do I sign up?

Two weeks ago, I noticed my dog Butter walking oddly. So I took her to the vet and within an hour she had blood work, X-rays, a full exam and she was diagnosed.

It turns out she had torn her knees. That’s not the medical diagnosis. The name is too long for me. But if she were a human it would be the same as tearing both of her ACLs.

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So they had to be fixed. Within two weeks of her initial exam, Butter got into a specialist and surgery was scheduled. She had a two-day stay. Her own cage. Her own team of doctors and we were given daily updates.

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The service was fast and impeccable. We picked her up over the weekend and while she has a long recovery, she now has one of two new knees without any waits or delays. Just. Like. That.

READ MORE: Ontario Patient Ombudsman finds hospitals are main source of complaints

Now, this isn’t cheap: Each leg is $7,000. Thankfully we have head to tail insurance on her and 90 per cent of this is covered.

Now, the point of me telling you about Butter is not to lecture you on pet insurance, which I urge any pet owner to get, but more to illustrate how much more dignified animal care is in Ontario than human patient care.

If you need a knee replacement today in the province of Ontario, you are waiting, on average, 286 days. In Hamilton, it’s a staggering 403 days.

Those numbers are from the Government of Ontario website. So that wait could go longer assuming you aren’t bumped.

The provincial government, which is desperate to turn the page on shameful health headlines, says it is investing $1.3 billion over three years to reduce times. But the backlog is so long and specialists too few it will barely make a ripple.

And it’s even worse in other areas. If you have cancer, Ontarians are waiting too long for testing and diagnoses. If you need certain stem cell treatments, you have to go to the U.S. If you get stuck in emergency care, hallways are now an acceptable and expected treatment zone. But maybe the worst is how we treat, or rather mistreat, seniors.

Unless you have money, and lots of it, you are stuck waiting on provincial care. And the reality is you don’t get what you pay for.

Take those with dementia and Alzheimer’s who depend on specialized care. THEY are the forgotten ones.

READ MORE: Auditor general says wait times for cancer biopsies not meeting targets

My stepdad, who recently died of complications due to dementia, spent the last 14 months of his life on a waiting list. He stayed in a residential home. Not a medical facility, which he needed, but it’s all that was available. He ended up getting an infection that no one caught it in time. He died, in part, because the facility wasn’t set up to deal with medical issues. Even in his dying days at the hospital we were told there he would have to wait for palliative care. I reminded the nurse that death doesn’t wait for Ontario’s waiting lists. And it didn’t.

Ted died in a hospital room with other patients forced to listen to his final moments. Zero dignity for him. Zero regard for the others.


Welcome to Ontario health care in 2017. Desperate to mute all these nasty health headlines, the province has promised to open 2,000 more beds to address crushing demand. Given the Liberals have closed upwards of 20,000, adding 2,000 more will do little to cure what ails our health-care system.

Yet again, constant expensive bandages that don’t actually fix the problems.

We aren’t serious about health care in this country. It’s not working. And no one is brave enough to have an honest conversation about changing it. Yes, we could implement and pay for private care, which, by the way, already exists. But we could substantially improve the system we have by scaling back on the ever-growing bureaucracy and never-ending waste. Imagine what we could have done with the $8 billion thrown away on eHealth Ontario?

READ MORE: Report on eHealth Ontario says patients should have access to electronic medical records

So yes, health care really has gone to the dogs. And it’s the kind of health care most of us can only dream of.

Alex Pierson is the host of ON Point with Alex Pierson on Global News Radio 640 Toronto, 900 CHML and 980 CFPL.

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