A friend of mine got tired of waiting for a hip replacement. So he booked himself into a clinic in Lithuania, of all places, that specializes in that sort of thing.

As a result, he’s bopping around with a new hip these days, and feeling pretty good about his quality of life prospects for the next 10 years or so.

He’s also 15 grand poorer, but he apparently can afford it and thinks it money well-spent.

That’s the thing about health care. The regular system – i.e. the one we all pay for out of our taxes but don’t have to pay for when the service is rendered – is overburdened. Because of the aging population, not to mention higher expectations, the lineup for hips and knees is long and probably getting longer.

Inevitably in such a scenario, the less acute cases aren’t going to get their new joint any time soon.

Such was the case with my friend. He waited a year just for a consultation, he said – only to be told he was too young (60) and his pain wasn’t severe enough to get him anywhere near the front of the queue.

Needless to say, this wasn’t what he had been hoping – or expecting – to hear after waiting 12 months. Why couldn’t they have told him that a long time ago?

So, extremely P.O.’ed, he started looking for alternatives, which led him to the jaunt to the Baltics. The clinic there was full of western Europeans, he said, who, like him, have the dough but not the patience to wait for their socialized medical systems at home to give them satisfaction. He met people from all over Alberta there as well, he said.

So medical tourism booms in Vilnius. Well, why not?

The same thing is happening in Tijuana, Mexico, as we know. It’s a whole industry down there, a major component of the economy. Everything from unconventional cancer treatments to plastic surgery. Dental surgery is a biggie as well, with many Americans and Canadians flying (or driving) down there to get one type of treatment and picking up a new set of teeth while they’re at it. Everything’s cheaper than it is at home, and with quicker access. The canny Mexicans, having perceived a market for such services, are rushing to fill it.

At home, you get what the system can manage to come up with, underfunded and often under-staffed as it is. In Mexico, you get what you can afford.

So of course, that raises all sorts of questions, such as why we can’t have private clinics playing a similar role right here at home. Cut out the travel. Keep the money in Alberta, etc., etc.

Of course, there are risks. Nobody in their right mind should be wanting to undermine the universal health care system we have here. Because we have it, all sorts of people who can’t afford costly insurance or private treatment are getting free health care that is probably as good as anything in the world.

It’s worth noting that this system – with all its flaws – is the envy of a lot of Americans, who wonder why their own country can’t ever seem to see its way to something similar.

There are lots of stories about how Canadian health care provides good services, improves quality of life and so on. It deserves a lot of respect and support.

But sometimes it is good that alternatives are out there.

Just saying . . .

by Joe McWilliams

June 25, 2024

This item copyrighted by   AlbertaChat.com / Lakeside Leaader   Slave Lake, Alberta

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