Senior’s saga emphasizes value of our system
If nothing else, the Advocate story last week about a 77-year-old Red Deer County man choosing to go to the United States for surgery emphasizes just how valuable our public health care system is.
Bill Welikoklad said unbearable pain drove him to head to Arizona for right hip replacement surgery, which will take place on Wednesday.
The cost for that one surgery will be $70,000. It will come directly out of Welikoklad’s pocket.
Fortunately for him, he can afford it. In 2010 he paid the cost to have his left hip replaced, also at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
There aren’t many Canadians — even those who fall within the comfortable but declining middle class — who can afford to drop $140,000 for surgery.
For Welikoklad it was about getting away from the pain a lot sooner than if he had waited for surgery in Alberta.
In Alberta he said he would have waited up to a year and a half for hip surgery.
So with serious medications failing to do the job and hurting his stomach while he waited, he decided to go back to Arizona for his second hip surgery. He called in mid-January and some eight weeks later he’s about to have that surgery.
He’s a lucky man. Most Albertans in need of surgery here must wait much longer, or leave the country and pay the big price themselves. For the thousands of Albertans who do have hip replacement surgery here, Welikoklad acknowledges that once a person does receive treatment, the service is good.
But that wait may not always be as long as Welikoklad believes it to be.
Alberta Health Services says currently 90 per cent of those waiting for a hip replacement have surgery within 35.2 weeks from the date of the decision to treat is made by the surgeon.
According to AHS, that’s an 11-per-cent improvement from last year when 90 per cent of people waited 39.7 weeks. Welikoklad sympathizes with those who must wait a long time for hip replacement surgery.
He says our health care system isn’t working, because even though it’s free, what good is it, if you can’t use it.
Actually, it’s being used big time.
In the current fiscal year, some 9,000 hip replacement surgeries will have been done in Alberta. At $70,000 a pop, no wonder private health providers would love to see our public system disappear.
It’s not perfect.
We know that. But the fact is, our health care system works each and every single day, in so many ways — and it keeps people from entering the poorhouse simply because they have the misfortune of being ill.
I wish Welikoklad a speedy and full recovery from his surgery but his answer to long waits is wrong.
He says allowing private clinics in Canada will solve the problem.
In fact it will create a two-tier health care system — one for those who can afford to pay and one for those who can’t.
Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 403-314-4332.