Canadian Healthcare

Imagine for a moment the inside of a doctor’s office.

There a dozen or so chairs with old magazines with the soft gurgling sound of an aquarium. Behind a glass partition is a team of administrators in that days blue, pink, or green scrubs shuffling paper work and files between phone calls.

This is what I am looking for when I ask you for a reference on a good doctors office. Normally I would look through a directory to find someone with my name or some variation of it. However my situation in Canada has been problematic.

A country that we have been told offers free medical care only provides that to people who live there (which is totally understandable) or to visitors who have been paying taxes for three months.

To fill this three-month gap you can get private insurance. Unfortunately after repeated conversations and reminders to HR, my paperwork was lost again. This is not surprising, they have had me fill out everything at least three times since I have started with the company. But this was the important batch of paperwork, this was the paperwork that I dogged them about since the day I agreed to move to Canada.

When I asked several people for a reference on a doctor there were a few who requested a walk-in clinic. Advantages, open long hours, 9AM – 9PM, easy to get to, and the doctor is nice.

The waiting room with aquarium, many seats, and old magazines is only available in the US. This a bus stop terminal about the size of a closet with the penetrating odor of old vomit and urine. I am last in line at the counter behind twelve snaking out the door. I imagine that this is akin to standing in line for Soviet era toilet paper. I am afraid to get a few squirts of hand sanitizer. The germs hang in the air.

It’s a nice part of town, in a nice building; it even has a pharmacy across the hall for perfect convenience. This situation, apparently, is what it is.

When I get to the desk I explain I am an American without coverage and things change. They accept cash. I have cash. Cash in fact is king. I am escorted to a room to see the doctor right away. He is happy to see me – why come to Canada, what do you need? I explain and am sent on my way. Dirty stares follow me out the door and across the hall to the pharmacy.

Another line, another wait. But when I mention cash, cha-ching, I am at the front of the line. The pharmacist sees a miscalculation in the prescription and steps next door real quick. He comes back and says “I had the doctor double the prescription so you won’t have to come back for a while.” It is also twice the price. But I am paying cash and keeping receipts. Funny how capitalism seems favors me wherever I go.