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As sick as a Mitchell

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It’s a confusing and overwhelming job, he says, and it’s not his fault.

It doesn’t take much to get him talking about the politics within B.C.’s hospital system, and the constant battle he faces to book the operating room for his growing list of people who need surgery. Space is at such a premium lately that there’s talk of one day moving his office out of St. Paul’s Hospital, his home base of operations.

Under the circumstances I’m not surprised I had to take the bull by the horns – or in my case the sinus by the polyposis – in order to resolve my medical problems. I’m not surprised that I had to be a little bit lucky to get a surgery date.

Canada’s health care system is a crossroads. The federal government is under more and more pressure to allow private health care in this country, providing another treatment option for people who have money. The argument is that health care costs are an increasing burden on taxpayers, but according to one study our per capita health care costs are actually going down. Less people are smoking, more people are watching what they eat and drink, cars are safer, and medical staff have better technology, tests and training.

Some believe that the health care crisis is being overblown, that it’s all part of a P.R. campaign by companies that are in favour of health care privatization in Canada. At this point I’m inclined to believe that.

While service levels have declined slightly and overall costs are going up because of budget cuts, budget deficits, federal downloading on provinces, and the impact of an aging population, we’re still doing pretty well when compared to other countries.

It’s too early to say exactly where our health care systems stands, and whether it is meeting the needs of Canadians. I’ll probably have more to say on this issue after June 11.